September 23, 2015
When I was at the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Demo Day a few weeks ago there was a lot of talk about the state of current drone technology. Amongst all the noise of absurdly short flight times and difficulties piloting drones was one common chord that sliced through everything like a hot knife through butter: we can, and should, make drones better than they’ve ever been.
I’ll be the first to admit that a major roadblock for drone innovation can be the sometimes confusing regulations surrounding the industry: who can pilot them, where can they pilot, and what are the ramifications if rules are broken? However, those regulations tend to hit more of the enterprise side of drone technology, leaving hobbyists relatively free to explore and engage with available drone offerings.
Therein lies a second, much more frustrating problem. Currently, hobbyist drones aren’t that great. They’re not that bad either, but they’re like early iterations of handheld video games in my eyes – much in the same way a SEGA Game Gear would burn through six AA batteries in minutes, so too do these drones have incredibly short lifespans.
To me, the real question is who’s innovating for hobbyist drone users and what are they doing to further elevate drone technology? I came across Advanced Robotix, a company that claims to have made the world’s first truly autonomous drone with their FLYBi model.
I always take those kind of statements with a big grain of salt, usually recognizing it as a marketing tactic. However, I think that the FLYBi might actually be one of the best drones I’ve come across to date.
Advanced Robotix’s FLYBi combines the existing, available drone technology with a laundry list of epic features I’ve not seen before:
- Intuitive Battery Swapping: The FLYBi has an autonomous battery swapping mechanism called the Helideck, and it’s what makes this drone stand out like neon under a black light when compared to the rest of the competition. Any time the FLYBi loses signal, runs out of battery, or flies too far away it will automatically return to the Helideck for swapping and safe keeping
- Bird’s Eye View Tracking Camera: As the team tells me, they’re most excited about the bird’s eye view optics stream from the drone camera that feeds directly into two internal HD LCD screens. They took a page from FPV racing and made specialty goggles, except these serve the added function of head tracking. The wearer is essentially synced up with the drone, so head movements mirror the camera movements.
- Wearable Controls: Each drone can be piloted with a wrist unit that has a small joystick and LCD screen displaying the FLYBi’s camera feed.
- Obstacle Avoidance Safety Features: The GPS tracking and obstacle avoidance systems mean that the operators can easily control the drone without any advanced training.
“Our challenge with designing FLYBi was to think outside the box and get truly creative – not only with enhancing safety features and user experience, but also with driving new technology. In the near future, we expect to see FLYBi drones being used everywhere, by everyone. We’re also excited to see FLYBi play an integral role in saving time, money, and resources for so many industries throughout the world,” says Advance Robotix’s CEO, Tim Voss.
September 22 marked the official launch date for their $35,000 Indiegogo campaign that will help bring FLYBi to market. Backers can expect to get their units in March 2016 if the funding goal is met, which I believe will be – they’re already at $13,541.
Image Credit: FLYBi Facebook page
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