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Parrot Bebop drone lands in December for $499

The company's new smartphone-controlled quadcopter, first announced in May, is finally flying into stores.

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Joshua Goldman/CNET

If you're dying for a more affordable -- but still quite capable -- drone for aerial video and photos to fly indoors and outside, it looks like that wait is coming to an end.

Following its announcement of the Bebop drone back in May, Parrot today has said the copter will be available in December starting at $499 at Best Buy and Apple stores and online. Those in Australia will be able to buy from Apple and Harvey Norman in December, too, with presales starting November 20. Pricing for the Bebop will be AU$699 (including GST). Pricing and availability for the UK is still being determined, but the US price converts to around £320, although expect the final price to vary.

Though its earlier models, the AR.Drone and AR.Drone 2.0, had cameras built-in, video and picture quality didn't seem to be a priority. But with the Bebop it's front and center with an f/2.2 fish-eye lens with a 180-degree angle of view and a 14-megapixel sensor.

It can capture video at 1080p full-HD resolution; the old AR.Drone 2.0 is limited to 720p. Video is recorded to the Bebop's 8GB of internal storage (there's no microSD or SD card slot) in MP4 format. Photos can be captured in JPEGs or Adobe DNG raw format.

Parrot takes advantage of the extra resolution to let you digitally pan and zoom your picture as well as give you three-axis image stabilization. Though this might not be as good a solution as putting the camera on a gimbal, it likely allows Parrot to cut costs and keep the Bebop light -- its maximum weight is 400 grams (14.1 ounces) -- and compact too. It measures roughly 12 inches (28 cm) square and 1.5 inches (3.6 cm) tall.

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Joshua Goldman/CNET

Like its other drones, piloting is done with a smartphone or tablet. However, for those of you who want physical controls instead of just using touch, Parrot also has the new Skycontroller. This'll give you more of a ground-control experience while also improving wireless communication thanks to its amplified Wi-Fi radio and four antennas, allowing you to fly farther and higher.

The Skycontroller bundled with a Bebop arrives in December as well for $899 and, in Australia, for AU$1,299 (including GST). Again, availability and pricing for the UK is still up in the air, but the US price converts to £575.

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