Category Archives: Quadrotor

CyPhy Works Launches Drone That Makes Aerial Video Easy and Intuitive

Image: CyPhy Works
This camera drone can shoot stable video without a gimbal.

CyPhy Works makes drones that are unique predominantly because they use a microfilament tether to carry power and data that allows for unlimited flight time and flawless high resolution video streaming. We would have expected that their next drone would have leveraged this technology somehow, but apparently, some engineers at CyPhy had a clever idea and decided to Kickstart a new drone that takes advantage of it with the ability to fly around while remaining completely level.

If you want to use your drone to take good video, you usually have to spend an extra eleventy bajillion dollars (or thereabouts) on a stabilized camera gimbal. But seriously, gimbals are expensive: 3D Robotics, for example, sells a gimbal for its Solo drone that (at US $400) is nearly half the cost of the entire drone itself. The reason that you need a gimbal is that whenever the drone moves in any direction besides vertically, it either pitches or rolls, which messes up the orientation of your video unless the gimbal compensates for it. Additionally, a drone that’s pitching or rolling is much harder to steer, because control axes start to shift around.

This is all annoying. So can someone fix it, please?

Nice, right? By adding a different horizontal thrust component to each rotor and varying the rotor speed (along with some “fancy math”), the CyPhy engineers enabled the LVL 1 drone to translate in any direction, no pitch or roll required. The camera doesn’t need a gimbal, meaning that you can tuck it right into the body of the drone, saving on cost and weight and making crash landings a lot less destructive.

Here’s what we’re looking at with the LVL 1: It’s a hexcopter with a 1080p camera that can tilt 90 degrees, 20+ minutes of flight time, battery that charges over USB 3.1, GPS and optical flight stabilization, waypoint following and geofencing, payload mounts (with onboard data and power interfaces), and you control it with an app over WiFi, although you can also use a traditional R/C controller, which is a feature that we love. Also, that level flight capability? You can switch it off if you want to do acrobatics.

The LVL 1 is now on Kickstarter (seeking $250k in funding); the first batch went for $400, and the second for $450, but $500 is now the going rate. That’ll get you one drone, a charger, a charging cable, and the app to control it is free.

There are a few other things that are worth paying attention to on the LVL 1, like visual feature tracking and the ability to follow you around based on the GPS location of your cell phone. The drone also has the capability of recovering from a motor failure or prop loss, and in some cases, it can even deal with losing two motors at once, flying on just four out of six.

We asked CyPhy CEO Helen Greiner about where the idea for this drone came from, and the answer is straightforward: “We invented this great technology that makes drones fly better. Seems a shame not to share it with consumers.” We were also wondering about just exactly how the level flight capability works and how it compares to a conventional drone, and Greiner promised to tell us all about it, just not in the middle of their launch day. We’ll put together an in-depth article on LVL 1, but for now, this thing looks totally cool, and you have until June 18 to decide if you want one for delivery in February of next year.

Test Flying Parrot’s Bebop Drone

Photo: IEEE Spectrum

With the release of the Parrot’s Bebop drone coming December 1st, IEEE Spectrum took the opportunity to take one for a test flight at an event in New York City.  As we’ve previously reported, the Bebop has a number of advanced features, but by far the most fun is the support for first person video flying.

 

A fish-eye lens on the front of the US $500 Bebop allows pilots to look in any direction in a 180-degree field of view, much as a helicopter pilot can look around her without having to rotate or tilt her aircraft. The video can be viewed and the drone controlled using a smartphone or tablet interface as with many of Parrot’s earlier drones, but Parrot also offers a dedicated Skycontroller that attaches to a full size tablet (the Skycontroller is bundled with a BeBop in an $800 package). The antenna on the front of the Skycontroller allows a Bebop to be controlled out to a range of about 1.5 kilometers.

In addition, VR glasses can be plugged into the Skycontroller to provide an immersive experience of flying. Parrot says it is working on some compatibility issues with the latest developers version of the Oculus Rift, but once ironed out, the Rift will allow users to look around the drone’s field of view by simply turning their head.

As I have a terrible habit of smashing up drones at Parrot’s press events, going all the way back to the original AR Drone’s debut at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I had some trepidations about flying the Bebop around the event space. However, the joystick-based Skycontroller made flying much easier than using the soft controls on a tablet or smartphone screen. Using the VR glasses made it easier still, eliminating the need to mentally remap left and right joystick manouvers depending whether or not the drone was flying away or towards me. This gave me the confidence and ability to fly the Bebop at higher speeds than I would normally try, as well as sucessfully maneuver it around some of the people gathered around the room, only crashing into a wall, like, one time.

Parrot’s rolling spider is coming.

Recently, Parrot has released a new flying toy named “Rolling spider”.

I love this!!!

It’s a quite stable platform based on its ancestor’s velocity estimation techniques that basically makes use of optical flow and aerodynamics in a tightly-coupled Kalman Filter.

For those whom may interested in the detail, please find the linked.

http://cas.ensmp.fr/~petit/papers/ifac11/PJB.pdf

In a nutshell, it can fly up to 7-8 min, the price is around $100-150 and it’s available on a market.

Enjoy the footage.