Advancements in commercial drones technology are happening constantly. Each innovation leads to new capabilities, more applications, and more widespread use of these machines.
Whether these companies are just trying to cash in on this fast-growing industry, or they’re genuinely advancing our use of drones in society, this technology affects every pilot and enthusiast.
Here are four specific innovations that are changing the way we interact with drones.
1. The Lily Drone
The Lily drone is a camera for anyone who wants to capture beautiful aerial shots of them doing…well…anything.
Using a tracking device, it follows you as you snowboard down slopes, kayak down rivers, or simply go on a hike with your family. But here’s the key: It requires no prior flying experience or skills. All you have to do is throw it into the air and the drone starts hovering in place.
As you move, Lily follows you using a tracking device. It can even sense when you’ve gone off a jump or some other type of sudden movement. The drone will trigger slo-mo mode to capture your acrobatic maneuver.
Here are a few more of its features:
Multiple shot angles
Using the iPhone/Android app, you can select from a number of different angles. Lily can follow you from behind, pan up, follow you from the side, lead from the front, and loop around you.
The Lily drone is fully waterproof up to 1 meter. This means you can literally throw the drone into water, the propellers will start spinning, and it will fly into the air like nothing happened.
HD camera (with 12MP stills)
It comes with an HD camera that captures 1080p video at 60fps. It can also take 12MP still photos.
Simply press a button and Lily will land right in the palm of your hand.
Lily offers aerial videography capabilities that many pilots wish they could perform themselves. But the #1 benefit is it gives the same video-capturing capabilities to people who have no idea how to fly a drone.
The cons? Well, you can’t take over Lily’s flight manually. This means it can be prone to hitting objects. But if you pay attention, you can use the app to stop Lily’s flight pattern and keep it in place.
You also can’t swap out the battery for longer flight times. So after 20 minutes of flight you will need to recharge it. However, if you could swap out the battery, you would sacrifice certain features (like the waterproof casing).
In the end, Lily is a magnificent step forward in drone technology.
2. Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope (SAFE) Technology
SAFE technology was invented and pioneered by Horizon Hobby. Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope makes a flying RC vehicle aware of its attitude relative to the horizon (a level pane).
This prevents extreme or unusual positioning of the drone in flight. It helps with takeoffs and landings, and if your drone starts to spin out or go haywire, you can push a button to bring it back to level.
You can also select different modes to allow for bigger or smaller angles of rotation.
3. Telemetry Systems
Telemetry technology has been around for a while. It’s a way to automate communication processes and take data measurements.
Telemetry systems allow you to monitor the status of your drone in real time. You can see how much power you’ve consumed and how much longer your batteries are going to last. This helps prevent crashes due to low power.
Some transmitters come with telemetry features built-in through an LCD display, but there are also systems you can buy and install yourself (like this one from 3DR).
This technology is going to become more crucial as safety concerns arise, as it helps you keep both the drone and anything you might be flying over safe.
4. The Panoptes eBumper — Crash Prevention for Your Drone
Panoptes has put together an amazing piece of technology — the eBumper.
It’s a kit that attaches to your drone. The eBumper uses integrated sensors and software to “enable autonomous obstacle avoidance” and precise drone control.
It senses when an obstacle is in the way, activates the eBumper to reduce the likelihood of a collision, and “bumps” the drone away from the obstacle. Then it hands control back over to the pilot.
About to hit a wall? Your drone pushes itself away.
About to smack a tree? Your drone pushes itself away.
About to lose $1,200 of your hard-earned money? This technology saves you from sleeping on the couch tonight.
Right now, the eBumper is only available for the DJI Phantom 2 (with the 3DR Iris+ in beta). But Panoptes will also be announcing models coming out soon for the Phantom 3 and 3DR Solo.
A Long Way to Go
Commercial and consumer drone technology has come a long way, and it has a long way to go.
But if we’re seeing these kinds of innovations popping up right now, we can only expect more advanced technology coming our way in the future.
Needless to say, it’s an exciting time to be involved in drones.
What do you think of this technology? Are there any other innovations you think should have been included?
Let us know in the comments below!
Alan Perlman is a drone hobbyist and marketing consultant who runs UAV Coach, a website that helps to push the drone community forward with educational and inspirational content and training.