With the burgeoning UAV sector poised to exceed $89 billion in sales over the next 10 years, expect to see drones become an as part of our daily lives as the smart phone is today.
Several models will offer a nifty feature selfie-holics won’t be able to resist – the ability to follow the user around autonomously snapping photos or shooting video. Yes, your Personal Paparazzo is just around the corner and, baby, you’re the star.
Like a faithful puppy – albeit with four copter rotors rather than legs – the Airdog by Latvian company Helico is eager to follow its sporting owner anywhere – even off a cliff. Marketed as an action sports UAV, the Airdog will autonomously follow the jumps and jolts of off-road motorcyclists, surfers, snowboarders and skiers capturing their gravity-defying moves with a high-quality GoPro Action camera.
“The AirDog always keeps you in the center of the frame, and remains stable, to ensure that you always get reliable, steady video from the sky, each time you use it,” the company’s website states.
Among “follow-me” drone models, the Airdog has garnered a huge following, raising $1.3 million and 1,357 followers from Helico’s campaign.
Still in pre-production, the canine drone is slated for a December release as Helico finalizes its software architecture. ($1,295, available for pre-order)
Another Kickstarter darling, Hexo+ sports some of the same features as other follow-me models but with a twist – the UAV is attuned to follow movements rather than a GPS waypoint and will fly a predetermined parameter. A user can simply “pinch and set” a frame using the Hexo+ smartphone app and drone flies around the user to keep him or her in the frame.
Developed by Squadrone System, Hexo+ also made a serious splash in the crowdfunding pond in June, surpassing the $50,000 pledge mark in 37 minutes. The campaign closed on July 15 and drew 2,336 backers who pledged a total of $1.3 million.
With a projected flight tracking speed up to 45 mph — “wind tunnel tested for improved aerodynamics” — the Hexo+ has garnered a high-flying collection of media buzz including mentions by Mashable, Wired, engadget, and The Washington Post. However, that buzz will have to wait seven months to catch up with reality – the Hexo+ will not be available until May 2015. ($949, available for pre-order)
The Iris+ by 3D Robotics (adding “+” to your product is a thing in the drone biz) offers a ready-to-fly experience for the intermediate user (practice, practice, young Padawan). Using the free DroidPlanner app, a user can control the Iris+ remotely and “leash” it to an Android device’s GPS, enabling hands-free flight and filming (camera not included).
The Iris+ will follow you to the ends of the earth (well, ends of your batteries) as long as you carry your smartphone. Equipped with a ground station radio and remote controller, Iris+ uses the Pixhawk autopilot system allowing the drone to fly any predetermined path using DroidPlanner. Like many mid-priced UAVs ($750) Iris+ ships standard with integrated LEDs on its arms as well as self-landing and waypoint return capabilities. ($750)
Another model still in the prototype stage, the Nixie may prove to be the “Little Drone That Could” as it battles for the crown of the world’s first wearable selfie drone. While still in the prototype stage, Nixie buzzed into the finals of Intel’s Make It Wearable competition and hopes to fly away with the contest’s $500,000 prize in November.
The Team Nixie website describes how Nixie works: “Nixie is a tiny wearable camera on a wrist band. The wrist straps unfold to create a quadcopter that flies, takes photos or video, then comes back to you.” It’s a simple concept but the Team still has to work out some design issues – industry observers say the current prototype is rather bulky – but the concept is elegant. (Price and availability pending)
Crowdfunding websites provide fertile ground (air?) for follow-me drones and Indiegogo is no exception as the PlexiDrone recently launched a $100,000 campaign – at $44K at the time of this writing.
As a concept, the quadcopter promises an array of impressive features – a multiple swarm mode (allowing several of the drones to film multiple views via either a smartphone, tablet or Bluetooth hub), obstacle avoidance sensors and speech recognition capability, all in a three-pound package
Because of the drone’s feature-rich flexibility, developer DreamQii wants to target filmmakers as its primary customer base – an increasingly lucrative market given the FAA’s recent announcement granting regulatory exemptions to six aerial photo and video production companies. ($479 starter model, available for pre-order)
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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