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Sci-Tech

Meet Parrot's new horde of Minidrone toys for land, water and air

From Lego-carrying quadcopters to nighttime two-wheeled rovers to a hybrid copter-hydrofoil, Parrot's expanded its smartphone-controlled robot lineup to 13 options.

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Parrot would like to help you fulfill your dream of having your very own robot squadron to control with your smartphone.

The connected-device company says it sold more than 600,000 of its two Minidrones from last year -- the Rolling Spider and Jumping Sumo -- so it's growing the line to include five new models each in two or three designs -- 13 in all.

The Rolling Spider quadcopter featured an attachable set of large, lightweight plastic wheels let you drive the Spider up walls and across ceilings and offered some propeller protection. The new Airborne Night trades the wheels for a protective hull and gets a pair of LED headlights, while the new Cargo model has a six-stud baseplate on top for use with Lego bricks or figures.

The Airborne Night will come in three different versions and will sell for $129. The $99 Cargo will come in two versions. UK and Australia prices have not been announced yet, but the prices convert to approximately £80 and AU$170 and £65 and AU$130, respectively.

If you'd like to tackle the air and water, the Parrot Hydrofoil combines a quadcopter with an attachable floating base. Attach the copter to a hinged mount on top of the base and spin up its propellers. The quadcopter lifts into a vertical position, pushing the Hydrofoil across water at speeds up to 5.4 knots (6mph, 10kph). It will be available in two styles and sell for $179 (about £115 and AU$230).

On the ground, joining Parrot's Jumping Sumo (which was launched alongside the Rolling Spider) are the Jumping Night and Jumping Race. The two-wheeled robots feature a retractable leg that can send them into the air up to 2.5 feet (76cm). A front-mounted camera gives you a view of the action as you roll around and can record clips to 4GB of internal storage.

The Jumping Night ($189; £120 and AU$245 converted) is essentially the Jumping Sumo with LED headlights. The Jumping Race pairs a set of larger tires and a more powerful motor to push its top speed to 8 mph (13kph); the Night and Sumo tap out at 4 mph (6.5kph). The Race will sell for $189, too, and both will come in three versions.

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Joshua Goldman/CNET

Parrot says battery life is improved, but it's not by much: The Rolling Spider was capable of up to 8 minutes, while the Cargo and Airborne Night are good for 9 minutes. The Hydrofoil is worse at just 7 minutes, but the Jumping Race and Night can zip around for up to 20 minutes on a single charge. And to get you up and going again faster, Parrot will have a quick-charger that takes 25 minutes; the current charger takes 90 minutes.

Also, while these do have cameras onboard, they're nothing to get excited about. The Jumping Night and Race can capture VGA-resolution video (640x480 pixels) at 30 frames per second as well as photos at the same resolution. The quadcopters (and Hydrofoil, consequently) can only capture VGA-quality photos.

Parrot hasn't given an exact date, but they're expected in stores this fall -- just in time for holiday shopping season, of course.