The US government predicts one million drones will be sold over the coming holiday season. That's a whole a lot of thumbs jerking around unfamiliar joysticks, trying valiantly to prevent a meeting between their shiny new toy and the trees or local ferris wheels. But experienced pilots too will be looking to take their wizardry to new levels with the latest in high-flying hardware. With most consumer models carrying top-notch camera gear and a pretty friendly learning curve, drones made for rookies and experts aren't as different as they once were, though they do still have their own strengths and weaknesses. Let's put four of the big players side-by-side to see how they stack up.
Drone technology sure is moving fast. So fast, in fact, that French hardware company Parrot has already felt compelled to launch a follow up to last year's popular Bepop drone. The Bepop 2 retains the light weight and camera of the original, but can fly faster and longer with a flight time of 25 minutes, landing it in the same territory as leading consumer drones on the market.
Silicon Valley-based commercial drone company Kespry has demonstrated a prototype drone that utilizes an NVIDIA artificial intelligence technology to recognize objects and learn about its environment. The prototype, which is based on the Kesprey Drone System already being sold to the materials, mining, and construction industries, uses the NVIDIA Jetson TX1 module, which ups the device's intelligence by giving it the ability to run complex algorithms.
A commonly-held reservation when it comes to drones is their propensity to smash into things. Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Lab (CSAIL) are not the only ones working on this problem, but they have made one of the more promising advances in the area so far. The team has found a way to streamline the computational algorithms needed for a drone to map its surroundings, giving its autonomous aircraft a major turbo boost when avoiding obstacles.
In the year since the release of the Ghost Drone, camera-equipped quadcopters that can autonomously track a subject haven't exactly become par for the course, but that feature is no longer enough to set them apart from the crowd either. In its ongoing search for a point of difference, the Chinese maker of the Ghost Drone has returned with a new and improved version, which allows pilots to don a set of virtual reality goggles and control the direction of the drone's camera simply by moving their head.
One of the problems with consumer drones is that unless you're using them to shoot video, they can actually get kind of boring after a while. Flying them pointlessly up and down and back and forth only stays interesting for so long. That's why a group of Slovakian entrepreneurs have created Drone n Base. It lets drone pilots race one another, engage in aerial dogfights, or play games like capture the flag.
A team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is developing a new drone that could be used to prevent wildfires by igniting and monitoring controlled burns remotely. The drone could be cheaper and safer than existing practices while also being able to operate in more harsh, rugged environments.
At just over an inch square, the AERIUS is a genuinely pocket-sized drone. With gyro-stabilization and tricks to offer, it is great for any drone pilot wanting to maximize air time. Gizmag Store has it now at 22% off the MSRP.
GoPro has provided the first glimpse of what video shot by its long-awaited drone will look like. In a short clip released today, the company presents a series of tracking shots intended to show off the stablization and image quality of its forthcoming quadcopter.
If you buy something from one of America's retail giants sometime in the future, there's a growing chance a drone will be dropping it at your door. Joining Amazon in the race to get robotic couriers into the sky, Walmart has applied for permission to begin testing drones for home delivery, according to a report from Reuters.