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A US$49 personal autonomous micro UAV?

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January 28, 2013

The MeCam is a tiny autonomous quadrotor UAV currently in development

The MeCam is a tiny autonomous quadrotor UAV currently in development

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Imagine if you had your own tiny quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that you could control with your voice, that would automatically follow you while avoiding obstacles, and that could shoot and stream video of you using an onboard camera. Now imagine that you paid less than 50 bucks for it. Well, if the hype is to be believed, that’s just what tech firm Always Innovating is promising with its MeCam.

Not be confused with the unrelated MeCam wearable video camera, the MeCam UAV is currently still in development, but reportedly could be commercially available by the beginning of next year. San Francisco-based Always Innovating doesn’t plan on producing the device itself, but is instead looking at licensing the technology to commercial partners.

The UAV is built around an ARM Cortex-A9 processor, features 1 GB of built-in RAM, an SD card slot, and is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled.

Although it’s hard to say what’s actually operational at this point and what’s still conceptual, the idea is that when users wanted to shoot videos of themselves, they could just launch the UAV by hand. It would then hover in front of them, streaming video to a paired iOS or Android mobile device.

The idea is that when users wanted to shoot videos of themselves, they could just launch t...

If the user wanted it to move, such as going higher or lower, they could get it to do so using voice commands. If they wanted it to follow them as they moved about, it would do so autonomously. In that mode, 14 real-time sensors and two Linux-based auto pilot algorithms would keep crashes to a minimum, while a video stabilizing algorithm would keep its shots smooth. A real-time sound filter would remove the whine of its motors from the recorded video.

The company is suggesting that the UAV would retail for US$49. That’d be nice, but ... we’ll see.

More information is available in the video below.

Source: Always Innovating via Liliputing

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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25 Comments

If this happens, it'll be a break through

Racqia Dvorak
28th January, 2013 @ 06:46 pm PST

this is such a nice little start to personal hovering drones

Terry Hope
28th January, 2013 @ 09:00 pm PST

Too cheap. Triple the price and you'll have a quality product.

Kevin Cloete
29th January, 2013 @ 01:49 am PST

Kevin - If the price is tripled, people might think it was made in the US!

donwine
29th January, 2013 @ 08:21 am PST

price doesn't dictate quality. there is a lot of pricy crap on the market

it looks like $49 would be enough for this particular design and the simplicity involved.

I would like to see it use some sort of sensor that could be clipped onto the user to maintain a set distance above and behind/in-front of the wearer. Then you wouldn't need to worry about voice commands to follow but could use them to 'land' or retrieve it

Frank Fain
29th January, 2013 @ 08:29 am PST

Dear Santa...

Red Bike Master
29th January, 2013 @ 08:33 am PST

As always, battery life is key. A UAV that can stay in the air for 15 minutes or less is a toy.

Jon Austin
29th January, 2013 @ 08:58 am PST

I am so ready for one of these great devices... how handy is that??!!!! I do agree a distance sensor integrated in the device would be great..... but hey, if without keeps the price down, leave it out.

dfk288
29th January, 2013 @ 09:03 am PST

ok

i want that

can it follow me on my bicycle?

what about wind, can it handle any or does it have to be inside all the time?

how long does it run?

wle

wle
29th January, 2013 @ 09:17 am PST

http://www.xheli.com/walkeraheli-ladybird-v2-devo4-rtf-oem.html

In a 10,000 unit order I can see it at $79

Tony Loro
29th January, 2013 @ 09:25 am PST

I think it is really cool.

I think it could be a video of what could the cause of the 'bump in the night' when one is awakened in the middle of the night. :0

BigWarpGuy
29th January, 2013 @ 11:12 am PST

Interesting....because of the small size this can be perched on the shoulder of a beat cop or search and rescue person and deployed for 2 minute searches of an alley of inaccesible pits and then return quickly to the shoulder perch to recharge.

zevulon
29th January, 2013 @ 11:26 am PST

There's no way these are going to be under $50. The BOM (even if mass produced) will be over that. The GPS unit alone is about $20 in bulk. That doesn't include a 3-axis accelerometer and a compass which are all required in order to do true navigation. GPS alone drifts too much and you don't get attitude or heading of the air frame with GPS. You can get true bearing, but if you want to point the aircraft, i.e. aim the camera, you will need heading. In order to be more accurate you should go with a barometric sensor for height as well. Not to mention the uprocessor, 1GB of memory, motors, and associated control circuitry.

There's a reason these things cost upwards of $300 folks.

Scott McCain
29th January, 2013 @ 01:22 pm PST

Zevulon, are you saying this might be a shoulder thing that goes up?

Markus Laumann
29th January, 2013 @ 01:45 pm PST

People definitely need some more advanced personal drones to create more crappy, blurry, badly lighted images on themselves that they can upload to Facebook for 5 minutes publicity and a couple of likes.

Imhof Iván
29th January, 2013 @ 01:46 pm PST

if it were solar powered it would be as close to perfect as can be

twighahn
29th January, 2013 @ 02:06 pm PST

...and shoots poison darts at people on command, delivers explosive loads to your enemies, etc etc

nutcase
29th January, 2013 @ 05:05 pm PST

- so there you are deep in a canyon, or under deep tree cover ,you want to know your position, but your gps gives you only 2 geo orbiters, steer one of these bad boys up and out to daylite, and suddenly you have 5 geo-orbiters and a good position , proves you are where you say you are and when, - yes I can see a value for this !

Allen Lumley
29th January, 2013 @ 09:28 pm PST

@Scott

it doesn't need GPS or a barometer, etc etc etc..

the use case put forth in the article is someone wanting to video or picture themselves. that means a 3 axis accelerometer, blueooth or wifi, and a camera. the rest of the work can mostly be done through interpreting what it sees in the video, since it's likely using face tracking.

the bluetooth or wifi can also feed directional information, since the base unit (iOS or Android, as mentioned) would likely be on the owner / person being filmed, so that can be used for orientation.

no reason to go all nuts with the specs. a simple unit can be quiet inexpensive.

MockingBird TheWizard
30th January, 2013 @ 10:50 am PST

I want one! Now! Dont care if its $49 or $149. Gimme gimme gimme

Paul Owen
1st February, 2013 @ 11:23 am PST

@MockingBird

Face tracking eh? So that means two cameras, or you can't film anything other than yourself? Not too much utility there.

No, I disagree. You still need to know altitude. GPS is not sufficient for that. You name one drone on the market that doesn't have an altimeter or some other sort of height measurement (barometer at minimum to measure ap). I am an avionics technician in a past life and I am quite aware of the electronics that are necessary for flight - manned flight, not to mentioned unmanned flight which is quite a bit more complex since you have to replace the wetware with hardware.

Just having a 3-axis accelerometer isn't going to cut it. You don't get yaw with an accelerometer. Think about it. You are rotating on a vector which is perpendicular to the gravitational plane. There is no way the accelerometer can measure this force, so you don't get yaw - that's a HUGE component missing (unless, like you said, you always point the camera at the person, which, again, seems useless except for narcissists).

That's why you need a compass and gyro to measure heading (not bearing which could be different and probably will be in a 4 rotor UAV - bearing can be determined by gps measurements). So, yeah, you are missing quite a lot to be a useful airborne platform.

Scott McCain
4th February, 2013 @ 09:02 am PST

What stays up in the air and doesn't need to have little propellers to make it stay up? A small dirigible. Then you only need a small ducted propeller for motion control, so that solves the durability problem, I think.

David Colton Clarke
4th February, 2013 @ 09:46 am PST

Typical quadrarotors hover for about 20 minutes before needing a recharge. I would guess something like this would have about a minute or two of longevity is all, not useful unless battery technology gets better.

Corey Zeimen, Marcus UAV

Corey Zeimen
5th February, 2013 @ 05:04 pm PST

They look smart ,when will they be ready for sale ?

jtm
19th March, 2013 @ 08:18 am PDT

I want one now! Why isn't anyone taking money?

Tom Swift
4th April, 2013 @ 03:39 pm PDT
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