Drones were one of the hottest gifts of the 2017 holiday season. It’s not just the high-end drones that are flying off of the shelves either; mid-priced drones are in high demand as well. And as technology advances and manufacturing processes improve, the prices of drones are dropping, bringing drones with some of the newest tech advances within reach of even modest budgets. Here are the top three drone tech advances that have happened this year.
1. Higher Resolution Cameras – Drones and RC tech with built-in cameras, such as Protocol RC drones & helicopters, are among the most demanded gifts. Advances in miniaturization have let manufacturers attach higher resolution cameras and video cameras to smaller and smaller frames. Live streaming video in 4k resolution from a drone flying 400 feet above your head is now a reality, letting you capture parties, sports, and personal events with ease. Cameras also aren’t separate from the body of the drone. Manufacturers are building them into the body of the drone, letting the cameras benefit from increased protection and shock absorbency. This gives you more value for your money as your drones need fewer repairs.
2. Motion Sensing Tech – How cool is it to be able to just ditch the physical controller entirely. No more having to hold a phone or a remote control in your hand to control your RC drone. New drones are incorporating gesture-controlled flight, letting you just wave your hand to control your camera-enabled drone. Want to take a photo? Make a picture frame with the thumb and forefingers on your hands. Move your hand from side to side to move your drone. And once it recognizes you, it automatically follows you, keeping you centered in its viewfinder.
Imagine where this tech could lead. Instead of body cams to record personal interactions, people could have their own personal drones flying above them. A drone could watch over your children as they play in the backyard, letting you keep an eye on them while doing chores inside.
3. Swarm Technology – Imagine if you could control five or even ten drones with one controller. The advances in swarm technology are letting fleets of drones be controlled by a single operator. The drones know where every other drone in the fleet is, letting them coordinate their movements in a complex aerial ballet. They can be configured to follow one single drone as a group or have separate pods of drones move around an area to accomplish a singular task.
While this tech is so far focused on use in the military sector, seeing its uses in the business and personal sector isn’t difficult. Instead of using cameras attached to wires for major league sporting events, a fleet of drones could coordinate to provide the most exciting coverage to date. Imagine live 24-hour coverage of endurance races like the Le Mans or the Safari Rally in Kenya.
For home use, a fleet of drones would be the ultimate in a home security solution. Programmed to automatically dock themselves periodically to maintain a battery charge, a fleet of swarm drones would provide nearly-unhackable 24-hour coverage for even the most security conscious of users.
4. Smaller Form Factors – Let’s be honest. Flying a thousand dollar drone, or even one that costs a couple hundred dollars is a tense experience. After all, if you accidentally crash it, that’s a lot of money out of pocket. Not so with the smaller drones that are starting to flood the market. You can find fun little micro-drones for under $30 now. Sending one of these zipping around reminds you what you wanted when you got into drone flying. The pure fun of not worrying if you send this little machine crashing into the wall or it falls out of the sky because the battery ran out and breaks into sixteen pieces.
There is something to keep in mind when you’re flying a micro or nano-drone. Battery life has come a long way, but drones are energy hogs. Your micro-drones are usually only good for less than ten minutes of flying time per charge. Charge times are usually pretty quick, however; most of the smaller drones can be fully charged in under an hour. And with these low prices, it’s easy to get two or three so you’re able to keep flying them in rotation.
5. Smart Drones – As artificial intelligence and machine learning advance, bits of what we learn have made their way into drones. Two of the key advances in drone technology in this area are smart – or assisted – flight and obstacle avoidance. That means that as you’re flying your drone if it sees an obstacle in its path, it will move to automatically avoid it. No more running into power lines or trees that you can’t see or that you didn’t react to in time; your drone is on the job.
Additionally, intelligent return – a feature that used to only be found in high-end drones – is making its way into affordable private drones. This feature allows you to recall your drone to you, while it navigates its way back. This is different from a non-intelligent return where a drone makes a beeline back to you, sometimes clipping obstacles or bumping into trees on its way back.