While the outward appearance of the sleekest, latest drone models draw the “oo’s and aah’s” at UAV trade shows, what’s under the hood for high-end, commercial video drones is creating an even bolder stir among investors.
Case in point: Ambarella. The Santa Clara-Calif.-based developer of low-power, HD video compression and image processing semiconductors has become the muscular “Hemi” engine for many UAV hotrods, including the DJI Phantom series and GoPro’s latest drone offering.
“The killer app for drones is aerial photography and videography,” Ambarella VP of Marketing Chris Day told MarketWatch at the recent InterDrone conference in Las Vegas. “There are so many different models, but one common denominator – high-quality video,” Day added.
With more than 10 percent of the chip-makers quarterly revenue now coming from UAVs, Ambarella is poised to become the poster child for complementary UAV technology. In the second quarter, the company reported, revenue of $84.2 million, up 79.3 percent the same period in fiscal 2015. For the six months ended July 31, 2015, revenue was $155.2 million, up 76.6% from $87.9 million for the six months ended July 31, 2014. Cody Willard of the Wall Street Journal states that Ambarella is currently trading at four times its sales and has experienced growth in the 20-30 percent range over the past few years.
“Revenue from our existing wearable, IP security and automotive video recorder camera markets grew significantly in the quarter, and we saw solid growth from drones or flying cameras,” Ambarella CEO Fermi Wang said. “We also closed on the purchase of VisLab S.r.l., which adds a strong development team as well as advanced intellectual property in computer vision technology. We look forward to continued success, as Ambarella enables the next generation of intelligent HD and Ultra HD cameras,” he added.
When it comes to drone tech, the company offers chipsets for HD Video recording and uploading and the firm designs a single chip that can handle video and audio processing.
One of the company’s most ambitious project to date has been the January release of the H1 camera System-On-Chip (SoC) for drone cameras. The chipset supports 4K Ultra HD H.264 video encoding at 60 frames per second for high-speed live-action recording with smooth slow-motion capabilities. It also supports the new H.265/HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) video standard for 4K Ultra HD encoding at up to 30 frames per second, providing higher image quality at lower bitrates as well as faster video uploads and higher resolution video streaming.
“The adoption of 4K Ultra HD video has been accelerating across consumer electronics markets,” said Wang in a press release. “The Ambarella H1 will enable a new generation of sports and flying cameras with high frame rate Ultra HD video, bringing professional-quality film making to the consumer.”
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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