The California-based startup Skydio has introduced a fully autonomous drone named Skydio R1. Its development took 4 years. The R1 is an artificial intelligence-powered quadcopter capable of shooting 4K video of a subject and maneuvering complex environments entirely on its own. It uses 13 onboard cameras and vision-based computer system to actually see the obstacles and avoid them while following and filming the desired subject.
There were initiatives to make autonomous drones before. We still remember the sad story behind the autonomous drone Lilly, which never made it in production. It is obviously quite a challenging task to design a drone that can safely fly in busy and changing environments. Skydio seems to have succeeded with the R1. Interesting fact is that their first batch of drones called “the frontier edition” is being assembled directly in their facility in the USA. The company did not say anything about outsourcing their production to China yet.
The Skydio R1 does not come with a controller. It can be controlled with a smartphone using the Skydio mobile app. Since this is an autonomous drone, users will not need the controls so often though. Mostly only take-off and landing of the drone are being managed through the app. Furthermore users can see video previews of footage there or control how the drone captures that footage with presets like:
- follow – drone follows and films the subject from behind
- side – drone films the subject from the side
- lead – drone films its subject from the front
- tripod – drone hovers at one place and turns to have the subject in the picture
- orbit – drone circles around the subject to create 360-degree shots