Typical. You wait ages for an autonomous aerial camera drone and then two come along at once. We featured Squadrone System's Hexo+ drone yesterday and today it's the turn of the AirDog from Helico Aerospace Industries. Like the Hexo+, the AirDog will track the user and film them from above.
Both Squadrone System and Helico are based out of Palo Alto, and are both claiming that their respective devices are the world's first of their type. Consumer drones are targeted to a large extent at the action-sports market and this is where these autonomous drones can really excel. Much like with autonomous vehicles, these drones are able to track their route and make smooth adjustments without the possibility of human error.
The AirDog is a quadcopter with rotor-arms that fold away for easy storage when it is not in use. It's said to be fully autonomous, needing no remote control in order to fly. Users can input the basic flight settings using the device's "AirLeash," a dedicated beacon for the AirDog that's worn on the wrist or helmet and is tracked by the drone.
Users can also download the AirDog smartphone app to configure more advanced flight modes, record footage and share video clips online. A manually controlled flight-mode is also available should users prefer.
There are six basic modes from which a user can choose. In the auto-follow mode, the quadcopter will follow the user while maintaining the position and altitude that the user has set. Relative-position mode will ensure that the drone keeps its position in relation to compass direction from the user and follow-track mode allows the user to run through a certain track and have the drone then repeatedly follow it. Additional camera angles and controls can be set in the follow track mode.
The hover and aim mode has the Airdog maintaining its position in one location while tracking the user with its camera, and the circle mode allows the user to set an area and radius around which the drone will circle. Finally, in the the look-down mode, the Airdog can be trained over one particular place with its camera pointing directly down. This can be used over skate-ramps or jumps, for example.
The AirDog weighs 3.9 pounds (1.7 kg), can fly up to to a speed of 40 mph (64 km/h) and has a flight time of 10-15 minutes between charges, depending on how it is being used. It uses a GoPro camera (sold separately) for filming and a 2-axis gyro-stabilized gimbal in order to keep videos stable.
Features for video quality include auto-pitch and yaw camera follow, horizon alignment and vibration isolation. The device has been designed to shut down its motors in the event of collision, and be easily repairable should it ever be damaged. Helico says it's durable and can be used in sub-zero temperatures, wind up to 23 knots, and in rain, sleet and snow.
Helico looks set to comfortably reach its Kickstarter target and individuals can pledge to be one of the first to receive an AirDog, assuming all goes to plan with the campaign and production. The first devices at the early bird price of US$995 have already all been snapped up, but it's still possible to pledge $1,195 in order to receive one.
Have a look at AirDog's Kickstarter pitch video below.