Drones have yet to crack the mainstream, and one reason is that the 'copters are difficult to fly (i.e., keep from crashing spectacularly into the ground).
That's where Skydio wants to change the game. The startup just announced its first consumer drone, the Skydio R1, is now available.
This isn't just another drone. The Skydio R1 is autonomous, meaning it can fly itself. Not only does it sense the world around it, but the R1 also predicts what will happen next and bases its moves on those predictions. It's much the same way as how self-driving cars work.
While some drones have a follow-me function, including the DJI Mavic Pro and DJI Mavic Air, that allow a drone to automatically track a subject, the Skydio R1 doesn't just tag along behind you. It's doing that, sure, but it's also navigating through the environment and avoiding obstacles, all while never losing sight of its subject. Pretty impressive.
Skydio R1 specs
The drone is built on an autonomous engine that combines artificial intelligence, robotics and computer vision techniques into one robust system. Autonomy isn't just a feature; it's at the very core of the device.
Naturally, it needs cameras to do keep an eye out, and to this end the R1 is equipped with 13 cameras around the frame. These aren't just for recognizing and mapping the world, but also for capturing video footage, and the Skydio R1 can shoot in 4K at 30 frames per section (fps), or 1080p at 60fps or 30fps.
Battery life is always a big question mark with drones, and the Skydio R1's average flight time/battery life is 16 minutes, five minutes less than the Mavic Air. Each unit comes with two batteries, so you can swap and continue flying.
The drone runs on a Nvidia Jetson TX1 processor, a 256-core chip built for AI computing. It also comes with 64GB of on-board storage, enough to capture a few trails rides and then some.
Unlike some other drones on the market, the Skydio R1 doesn't require a remote control when it's in manual mode. You can control the device from your smartphone through the Skydio app, available for iOS and Android. These controls include a landing function, which is kind-of important.
As for speed, the R1 can hit a zippy 25 miles per hour, or 40 kph. You'll have eight cinematic modes to choose from, including Orbit, when the drone circles its subject, Side, when the drone tags along beside a moving subject, and Lead, when the drone is in front of a moving subject.
Skydio R1 price and release date
Despite its nifty flying abilities, it's unlikely the Skydio R1 will break into the mainstream in a big way, at least to start.
The drone will almost certainly appeal off the bat to early adopters. Potential users could include athletes who want to study their technique from a bird's-eye view, adventurers who've outgrown the GoPro, and filmmakers who want to capture those sweeping cinematic shots without the need for a massive rig.
Another factor: price. The Skydio R1, available to start in a limited Frontier Edition, costs $2,499 (about £1,810 / AU$3,180). The DJI Mavic Pro, for comparison, costs $999 (£1,099 / AU$1,599).
Should the price come down, or Skydio's self-flying tech find its way into a less expensive model at some point, then the company's drone dreams could really take off.
Shoppers in the US and Canada can purchase the Skydio R1 via Skydio.com today. The company isn't sharing details on a further rollout at this time, though we'll update this article when that information becomes available.