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Nvidia Shield: Piloting A Drone With The Tegra 4 Handheld

We featured Parrot’s AR.Drone 2.0 in last year’s holiday gift guide. Once our model, Ashley, was done taking pictures with the foam-shielded quadcopter, we snatched it away, took it outside, and started flying it around our cul-de-sac using Parrot’s app for iOS. Now, given what an iPhone can do, the software is pretty nifty. But control certainly wasn’t what I’d call natural, smooth, or even intuitive. It was a lot of flicking around the phone’s screen, trying to get the drone to go where we wanted.

Obviously that would be a total waste on the Shield’s touchscreen. So, there’s now a Shield-optimized version of the AR.Freeflight software that lets you control the drone using joysticks. It’s a completely different experience. I’m pretty sure I completely drained the Parrot’s battery five times just trying to get initial impressions written up. In the video below, I handed Shield over to my father, who proceeded to nearly run me down with it. But hey, whatever, he was having fun.

Of course, you retain all of the on-screen functionality, like automated take-offs and landings. Shield’s five-inch screen is also where you see the camera’s 720p output, and where you’re able to start a recording. But the two joysticks take care of control. The right stick is tasked with up/down and rotation, while the other one banks left/right and pitches forward/back.

Shield would make for a very expensive (and not altogether comparable) remote control, on top of the $300 AR.Drone 2.0. But if you were already planning to buy Shield for its more primary purposes, and Parrot’s quadcopter was on your wish list, know that the combination is so much more fun than using an iOS- or Android-based smartphone to fly.

Nvidia just announced that, instead of availability this week, its Shield handheld should be available at some point in July due to a recently-discovered issue with part of the device. More from us when we receive the updated unit!

Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.