Rise of the personal Drone

personal drone

ARdronebw

(As much as I dislike calling multirotors “drones”, it’s kind of catchy).

The Parrot AR Drone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parrot_AR.Drone , launched in 2010, started the personal multirotor movement, it was ground-breaking, giving a multirotor experience to anyone with an IOS device (Iphone/Ipad) along with a First Person View experience, all for a few hundred dollars (when more “traditional” systems with the same capabilities were in the thousands).

These last 12 months, however, has seen 4 of what I would call “personal drones” launched on the market. By definition, a drone is capable of autonomous flight, not controlled directly by a human operator, but rather the flight path is pre-programmed, and can change based on changing conditions (such as the object of interest moving).

First, on the scene – 3DRobotics launched the IRIS around October 2013

IRIS+

http://3drobotics.com/iris/ The IRIS is based on the Pixhawk controller, offering control via a conventional RC controller, and via a smartphone or tablet, using the Mavlink software for mission planning and control, and also includes auto-land/return to home on a low battery.The developer version was first reviewed on RC groups in November 2013 http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2046042

The New Version of the IRIS, with “follow-me” technology, was released early September 2014, this is where the multirotor can follow the users smartphone. Price for the basic unit is $750 USD

The Second personal drone and first this year we have the Kickstarter funded Hexo+

hexo+360cam

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sqdr/hexo-your-autonomous-aerial-camera , who successfully funded July 16th, 2014 using Kickstarter (popular crowd-funding site), initially trying to raise $50 thousand, they ended up with $1.3 million USD.

The Hexo+ uses your smart phone or tablet for control. The Hexo+ introduces the concept of “follow-me” where the multirotor will follow the user’s GPS-enabled smart phone (a feature 3DR added to the IRIS in Sept 2014)There are no plans to offer a separate RC style controller, although one can be added. From the text on the Kickstarter campaign “The on-board software is based on the 3D Robotics open-source code”, from this I am betting on Pixhawk being the controller at the heart of this machine. Early bird price was $499 USD . Expected delivery at this stage for the crowd-funded drone is May 2015

Third this year is the AirDog.

airdogKites

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/airdog/airdog-worlds-first-auto-follow-action-sports-dron also successfully achieved their funding goal on Kickstarter, July the 26th 2014 , aiming for $200 thousand and ending up with $1.37 million USD

The Airdog follows the user using an “AirLeash” , gps enabled device that you wear. The creators of Airdog dismissed using a smartphone (as the hexo+ uses) to control the Airdog, due to what they saw as inherent limitations, including the accuracy of the inbuilt GPS, limitations to Bluetooth range (30-50 meters) and the practicality of holding on to your phone while involved in the activity you want to film (imagine trying to hold onto your smartphone while surfing). The AirLeash allows you to guide and control the AirDog, however there is an AirDog app for your smartphone as well. At its heart, the Airdog also uses the Pixhawk flight controller from 3DR. Early bird pricing was $995. Expected delivery is November this year (2014).

And Fourth for the year, this time currently undergoing crowdfunding on Indiegogo is the PlexiDrone.

plexidrone

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/plexidrone-making-aerial-photography-a-breeze , targeted funding is 100 thousand and within five days (Oct 6th) they are at over 76 thousand USD.

The PlexiDrone differentiates itself from the others in the following ways. It fits in a cool-looking hard-shell backpack, and the parts “snap” together, to enable the user to walk/cycle/run/public transport to their location, its has obstacle avoidance sensors on the front, retractable landing gear, and multiple payloads including “the claw”! Early bird price was $479 USD. Targeted delivery date at this stage is March 2015.