If any of you were in doubt that drones were going to be the flavor of the year where consumer electronics are concerned, you only need to see what took place at the Consumer Electronics Show this weekend in Las Vegas to realise that drones are very soon going to become a part of everyone’s lives, whether directly as the proud owner of a drone, or indirectly with their impending use for parcel delivery, aerial surveying by utilities companies, security company use, real estate images and wedding photographs, etc.
There was a real show-stopper on display from Chinese company EHang, who unveiled their prototype for the first quadcopter drone capable of carrying a human payload! But on a more down to earth note, even though that is hardly an appropriate phrase to use, what were the highlights of the CES show in Las Vegas where the hobby drone enthusiast and light commercial user are concerned?
Well one of the stars is a drone which you may have heard about, but which you have yet to find available in the stores or online. It is Lily, which is described as a self-flying selfie drone. It is a remarkable piece of equipment that requires no controls and is programmed to follow you wherever you go. As you will see from the video we found, it is great for following you if you are into extreme sports, skiing or snowboarding, mountain biking, canoeing or rafting. Do we think this will be popular? Well based on the fact that even prior to CES they had pre-orders totalling $38 million, we think you have your answer!
Flytrex Aviation, an Israeli company was keen to show off the capabilities of their drones too. They are offering something quite special as through the use of a smartphone app, a SIM card, and cellular data, the drone can be operated remotely and is capable of delivering a parcel 25km away. This is clearly a drone that will require a commercial license as it exceeds the FAA’s regulations with regard to keeping your drone within sight. However, the technology used is certainly a major advance as it has an internal system that can analyse the topography of the terrain between the start and destination, then plan its route ensuring it avoids any objects such as trees, etc. The company’s chairman is of the opinion that within the next two years drones will have adopted technology that will enable them to fly and take into account conditions in their immediate vicinity, to include weather, but also other airborne traffic, such is the expected boom in the drone industry.
DJI chose the show to announce a black version of its Inspire 1 Pro drone and the Phantom 3 4K. This is identical to the Phantom 3 Professional, though offering a shorter video transmission range and lower resolution. Parrot announced the arrival of the new Disco, a fixed-wing drone project due for release this year, but no pricing was available. The Solo drone from 3D Robotics has had an update now enabling it it to do a couple of new computer-assisted camera moves which they refer to as “Smart Shots”.
One other theme which became apparent at the show was the number of manufacturers promoting drones weighing less than the 250g minimum weight for compulsory drone regulation, such as the ONAGOfly. However, despite all the physical and technical advancements achieved during this last year, there still remains the one area which has seen next to no improvement and remins the bane of every drone pilot’s life, battery power!