Flying cameras were big at NAB 2015.
The show’s dedicated aerial pavilian played host to a frequently packed audience of onlookers straining their necks skyward as drone vendors flew their wares in an enclosed cage.
Some are calling it “the drone rush.” Whatever you choose to call it, there will be plenty of air craft to choose from this year. Here are some highlights from the show.
3D Robotics Solo
The Solo is the first drone to support full remote control of GoPro cameras while also delivering live-streaming HD video to mobile devices. The drone can deliver a video stream to iOS and Android devices up to half a mile away. You can record the stream directly to your device’s camera role or use the HDMI output in the camera controller to output it to broadcast devices for live-streaming.
Thanks to a pair of Linux computers (one in the drone, the other in the controller), the Solo boasts a number of “intelligent” features that give the drone greater autonomy–enabling it to fly predesignated routes automatically or handle camera controls without user intervention. A Smart Shot, that lets you set up a shot in real-time which the Solo will execute on its own.
A Cable cam and Orbit setting allow you to create a flight path along a “virtual track” in space which the Solo will then fly while you focus strictly on the camera. You can also tell the Solo to fly the route and work the camera. A “Follow” mode programs the Solo to track the camera operator’s movements by locking into your mobile device. Solo also features a one-touch aerial selfie, because of course it does.
Its flight time is 20 minutes with GoPro and the included 3-axis gimbal attached.
Solo ships in May and is available for pre-order now for $999.
The company’s latest professional drone, the Alta, can mount professional cinema cameras up to 15 pounds in weight to either the top or bottom of the quadcopter. It boasts a flight time of 15 minutes and Freefly says it can be assembled and ready to fly in 15 minutes.
The Alta is a mostly Freefly-engineered affair. The company is now using its own flight controller instead of a third party system. The drone ships in June and is available for pre-order now for $8,495.
Dangling overhead in the Freefly booth, still in prototype form, was a Movi gimbal capable of holding a payload of 50 lbs. It was attached to an unannounced prototype drone that, presumably, will be able to carry a such hefty payload.
Yuneec showed off new Typhoon and Tornado drones.
The Typhoon series is aimed at hobbyists as well as pros. The new Typhoon Q-500+ ships with the ST-10+ Personal Ground Station that can maintain a control link with the drone from up to 800m away and a video stream from up to 600m. The ST-10+ has been updated to offer a larger 5.5 touch screen running an Android-based interface.
The Typhoon’s onboard camera sports a microphone and16-megapixel image sensor capable of 1080/60p video capture. The fixed lens has a 130 degree field of view. It is mounted to a 3-axis gimbal. The drone’s camera can be detached and mounted to the company’s ProAction Steady Grip.
Flight time is 25 minutes on a fully charged battery.
The Q500+ is available for pre-order now for $1,295.
Yuneec also unveiled the Tornado H920 hex-copter system designed for mounting a Panasonic GH4. The H920 has a flight time of 24 minutes and ships with a 24-channel transmitter with video link.
As the name implies, the Fotokite is a drone that stays tethered (kite-like) to the operator. The physical tether is meant to offer a safer, more reliable solution to prevent fly-aways, where a drone loses contact with a ground controller. The tether also has other virtues–it sends 1080p HD video down to the user and power back up.
There’s shoulder-worn battery back with interchangeable batteries so you could theoretically fly the Fotokite for hours, unlike conventional drones that tap out after 20 minutes.
Pricing and availability weren’t announced.