The FAA may be making uncomfortable noises in the direction of commercial drone photography, but that hasn’t stopped drone makers from hitting CES with several new products. Many of the photo drones at the show got their start on Kickstarter, where they successfully raised millions in 2014 with an eye toward shipping in 2015.
In fact, the Consumer Electronics Associations is expecting a banner year for drone sales, estimating the global market will grow 55 percent from 2014 to hit $130 million in revenue this year. In five years, drone revenues are projected to hit $1 billion.
What’s new for 2015′s crop of flying cameras is that this breed can operate without user intervention. Once you program them, they’ll follow a subject around without any further instruction. Welcome to the future.
AirDog showed off its auto-follow drone for GoPro cameras. The drone, which is now available for pre-order for $1,295, can be programmed to autonomously follow a moving subject without any operator intervention.
The secret is the company’s Air Leash waterproof transmitter which can keep the drone locked on its holder up to 1,000 feet away. You program the drone to follow you and it can then keep pace with a subject moving as fast as 40 miles per hour. You can also program it to hover, circle or point the camera directly down.
Depending on your air speed, the AirDog will stay aloft for between 10 and 20 minutes. It weighs 4 pounds with GoPro, gimbal and battery.
Similar in spirit to the AirDog, the Hexo+ can also autonomously track a moving subject while carrying a GoPro aloft. It will be slightly cheaper than the AirDog, with a pre-order price of $1,149 and a ship date of September.
The drone is programmed using a smartphone app, which lets you set your desired framing. Unlike the AirDog, you won’t need to hold a remote to keep the Hexo+ on your tail and you’ll be able to choreograph more complex flight patterns using the app. It has a flight time of roughly 15 minutes and uses a brushless gimbal system to stabilize a GoPro (including the Hero4). It will ship standard with a 2D gimbal but you can upgrade to a 3D gimbal as well.
The Zano distinguishes itself by its tiny size and equally tiny price. At an expected retail price of $279, this palm-sized drone is infinitely cheaper than almost all competitors (even Parrot’s inexpensive Bebop). It sports a 5-megapixel integrated camera and is controlled via Wi-Fi from Android and iOS devices. It uses Wi-Fi to stay tethered to the camera operator and can fly autonomously, tracking a moving subject within Wi-Fi range.
It will offer a removable battery and microSD card slot and will stay airborne for between 10 and 15 minutes. It’s expected to ship in June.