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HEXO+ drone autonomously follows the action, for under $500

By

June 16, 2014

The HEXO+ drone autonomously tracks its user

The HEXO+ drone autonomously tracks its user

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If you watch almost any video promoting a consumer drone, chances are you'll see the aircraft flying along above a moving motorbike rider, snowboarder or other fast-moving athlete. It makes for some impressive aerial footage of the person, but also requires a fair bit of piloting skill. Additionally, if you buy one of those drones, you'll end up shooting other people doing those things – what if you want footage of yourself? Well, that's where the HEXO+ hexacopter comes in. It autonomously flies above its user, shooting video of them as they do their thing.

The copter communicates with the user's iOS or Android smartphone using the MAVLink protocol. It also features a 2-axis gimbal mount for a GoPro actioncam, which can either be supplied by the user or included in a package deal.

The user starts by utilizing an included app to indicate the perspective from which they wish to be filmed – such as from the front/to the right/X degrees up/from Y feet away. Once those settings are sent through to the drone, it automatically takes off and hovers in position, waiting for the user to start moving.

The user utilizes an included app to indicate the perspective from which they wish to be f...

Once they do, it flies along with them, autonomously moving around to maintain the desired framing. It "knows" where the user is mainly by keeping track of the GPS coordinates and position of their phone, although it also utilizes predictive algorithms to anticipate their trajectory.

If the user wishes, they can also use the app or an RC controller to fly it manually. It does not have an obstacle avoidance system, however, so it has to be used in open areas free of things like branches and power lines when in autonomous mode.

The current HEXO+ prototype has a top speed of 70 km/h (44 mph), a flight time of 15 minutes per charge of its battery, and can maintain a shooting distance of up to 50 meters (164 ft) from its user. Additionally, its six propeller arms can be folded back and the props removed, for easier transport.

Its designers are currently raising production funds on Kickstarter, and have already surpassed their funding goal. A pledge of US$499 will get you one (without a GoPro), when and if it's ready to go.

More information is available in the pitch video below.

Source: Kickstarter

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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14 Comments

can you say weaponization boys and girls :)!

zevulon
16th June, 2014 @ 12:29 pm PDT

Yay! I've been on about wanting exactly this for about 3 years! I was thinking that rather than using a fixed viewpoint, it should be able to track, pan and zoom creatively, completely automatically. So where could it get algorithms to do that? Video games! They've been doing it for years.

Synchro
17th June, 2014 @ 01:22 am PDT

Probably illegal to use in his way in most counties. Its a drone and has to meet the local aviation laws, which are quite sensible in the UK - Basically you need a pilot in control or at least someone observing it and able to take manual control. A person taking part in another activity clearly cannot be the pilot.

This is a potentially dangerous device and could do harm to the whole drone industry if it gets produced,

Perhaps if it was modified to track the target of the photo shoot with someone else as the pilot then that would be safe and probably get a better shot anyway!

Brian M
17th June, 2014 @ 02:28 am PDT

The more devices such as this join the GPS club along with vehicle navigation aids and the like, the more temptation there will be for some to get their fun from jamming the GPS signal and watching the mayhem that results.

One hopes that the more the tendency for that to happen, the more impetus there will be to develop systems hardened to such eventualities. It might be fun for some sad individuals to watch a drone such as this fall from the sky because it doesn't know where it is, or some autonomous road vehicle turn into a side road that isn't where it thinks it is, but can the same be said for messing up the navigation and docking of an LNG carrier or cruise liner? Causing car crashes is bad enough, but potentially destroying a whole LNG terminal or putting a cruise liner on the rocks, both with potentially great loss of life, is an entirely different matter.

I am told that one can purchase GPS jammers on Ebay.

Mel Tisdale
17th June, 2014 @ 02:55 am PDT

how about radar to detect trees and aboid them?

iperov
17th June, 2014 @ 05:29 am PDT

Just wait until the ski slopes of the world buzz to the sound drones following people snowplough their way to the bottom. With the lack of collision avoidance I'm sure many will be lost to trees or colliding with other drones.

That said this, is very cool and I want one!

OriginalJAHT
17th June, 2014 @ 05:40 am PDT

Cool item, but wouldn't they need some accurate mapping for terrain avoidance? What about other drones, unmapped poles, signs, cables, trees?

flylowguy
17th June, 2014 @ 09:22 am PDT

This is an awesome invention that people should be jumping on board with.

Think of the jobs behind, and fun uses for this, it's a real economy boosting invention...

So why all the asinine comments and naysayers shooting it down..?

... No wonder the world is so slow in bringing the future to the here and now.

We have the technology, we have the ability, but we're always held back by under educated morons, with ignorant opinions and ideas, - Yet very loud mouths, gigantic egos, and they seem to be helplessly compelled to have their say and do their best to make sure that, no one, is enjoying their life, in any other way that the naysayers deem acceptable.

In a nutshell... Haters gotta hate.. they just can't help it.

Keep on innovating, inventing, challenging, and changing this world... It won't improve by itself.

Rich Melton
17th June, 2014 @ 11:28 am PDT

Why all the pessimism. Autonomously guided personal drones are the beginning of a revolution in robotics, making it cheaper for everyone! everything worth doing has positive and negative uses, depending on the user of the tool. No need to be a Ludite about it.

Ryan Gibbons
17th June, 2014 @ 11:48 am PDT

Check out this project, it looks very similar but with far more features and promises to deliver much sooner

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/airdog/airdog-worlds-first-auto-follow-action-sports-dron

It looks more professional also, but that's imo.

[Ed. note – You can see our article on the AirDog here: http://www.gizmag.com/airdog-auto-follow-action-sports-drone/32576/ ]

Leon Domowski
17th June, 2014 @ 11:49 am PDT

Can't wait for government agencies to use this to track citizens based on mobile phone ID. 24 eye in the sky.

*dons tinfoil hat*

Hundy
17th June, 2014 @ 01:04 pm PDT

In the United States, the laws for flying autonomous vehicles are quite clear...you are not allowed to fly them beyond your line of sight. You cannot lose sight of your vehicle at any time. If you use an FPS system, then you need to have a trained vehicle pilot with you to observe the vehicle at all times. You are not allowed to fly an FPS vehicle without a spotter. You are not allowed to use your device for commercial purposes...in other words, if you use your device to make money, or the use of your device generates money, it's illegal.

Ed
18th June, 2014 @ 07:02 am PDT

I would like something like this for when I go fishing, it could be tethered to the boat.

Jay Finke
18th June, 2014 @ 01:00 pm PDT

So it's illegal, immoral and possibly life threatening? Really? Man, these comments were a buzz kill, now I'm just bummed. Autonomous flying drones will rip the space time fabric and send us all to Hell. I just thought "What a cool use of available technology. AND ...I WANT ONE!!!

ridgetopboy
18th June, 2014 @ 09:42 pm PDT
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