SKYDIO R1 SELF FLYING DRONE
Is this the next step in drone technology? If Skydio have anything to do with it then it could well be. Autonomous drones are here in the shape of the Skydio R1 and we give you the full rundown.
Skydio R1 Review
At the budget end of the market we have seen new companies come in and bring to market drones that can compete with some of the more reputable and established drone manufacturers out there – But Skydio (a tech startup from Silicon Valley) is now trying to do what no other startup has done before, and that is to take on the big boys at the top end of the market.
Despite a hefty price tag (get ready to hold your breath for this one) of just shy of $2500 their first product (Skydio R1) features technology previously not seen on drones – that is that it can fly and capture video completely autonomously in the most complex of environments.
Whether or not consumers will stump up a small fortune to take advantage of this technology remains to be seen but the company headed up by CEO and co-founder Adam Bry certainly seems to have a bright future with their first product catching the attentions of the big names in the industry.
Let’s take a look at the specs and how well the R1 performed when we got our hands on it.
Out of the box
Weighing in at just 2.2 lbs the R1 might be forgiven for feeling a little flimsy. But the carbon fibre and aluminium materials used to build the frame and body of the drone give for a very robust feel. The first thing you will notice though is the size of it. It may be incredibly thin at just 1.5 inches but with a total span of 13 inches by 16 inches it is not the most portable of drones. It cannot be transported at a smaller size and this will be a sticking point for some. Due to its sturdiness it is more than capable of being carried around in a decent sized rucksack though.
You get plenty from Skydio to get you started and it is fair to say that the R1 packs a lot of technology in to its super thin chassis. Here’s what you get in the box…
Skydio R1 Drone – The beautifully built, incredibly lightweight and aesthetically pleasing R1.
Extra Battery (2 in total) – These retail at $149 each so having a spare included adds a little value.
Extra set of Propellers – Again, these retail at $29 and you get 2 clockwise and 2 anti-clockwise propellers on top of the original set.
Data Cables – USB Type C to A and Type C to C are both included for data transfer
Charger – A pretty vital piece of the package
We have already established that the R1 is not cheap but this is groundbreaking technology. With no less than 12 navigational cameras in addition to the user video camera and GPS, you start to get an idea as to where your money is going when you buy this drone. There are two batteries included with the R1 which is a nice touch and each fully charged battery will give you about 16 minutes of juice which is about average for a drone of this size.
The Camera… which one?
With 13 cameras in total we are obviously focusing on the user camera here. The camera used for recording video and taking images has a Sony IMX377 1/2.3″ sensor and is capable of taking 4K video at 30FPS or 1080p video at 30 or 60 FPS. It has a 150 degree field of view and with 64GB of onboard storage you should have plenty of space for storing that footage – in fact you will have enough space for 90 minutes of footage in 4K or 4.5 hours worth of 1080p HD footage at 30FPS.
The other 12 camera are used for navigational purposes and use omnidirectional vision and mapping software to guide the R1 to follow its subject through some of the most testing of environments. Following you on a mountain bike through a wood or forest of thick trees is something that even an experienced drone pilot would struggle to do manually but the Skydio R1 tackles this with ease.
Powered by Intel, the R1 has some serious hardware behind it, all of which is geared towards providing you with the safest and smoothest flight, awesome tracking and a super stable flight thanks to a 2 axis mechanical gimbal for the camera and 1 axis flight control. The 256-core Nvidia Jetson GPU and Quad-core ARM CPU work with the Skydio software to provide tracking through SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mappsing) to create a map of the environment in front of it as well as being able to track a person or object within that space.
At present there are five shot modes with follow, lead, side, orbital and tripod all being fairly self explanatory. The side shot is particularly good for action shots and as the R1 has a top speedy of 25mph any kind of human activity such as running or biking can be captured with ease and the results are stunning.
The R1 is synced with a mobile app that allows you to select your target and even adjust the framing of the shot with simple and easy to use sliders for zoom, height and angle. You can take control of the drone if you wish but this isn’t really the most intuitive experience and to be fair is not what the R1 was designed for.
We shot in 4K and 1080p at 30FPS and the results were certainly comparable to something seen on the Mavic Air in terms of image quality. The big difference here though of course is the autonomy aspect – with no concern for crashing you really can go hands free and care free about your activity.
Who is the Skydio R1 aimed at?
In truth, the Skydio R1 is not really aimed at drone owners who enjoy flying a drone and being in control as the pilot. You can take off and land in tight spaces without the need to find open areas and this is why the R1 is being branded more of a camera than a drone.
Of course, the reality is that it is both of these things but the R1 is most likely to appeal to people who want footage but without the need to pay a videographer or photographer to capture it.
The uses for the R1 are wide ranging. From athletes and sportspeople using it for social media promotion and even teaching and analysis to hobbyists looking to document their spare time, the possibilities are pretty endless.
The analysis and educational potential of the R1 is most exciting and for there are bound to be a raft of commercial uses too.
The R1 is only available in the US at present and you have to buy direct from Skydio. For more information check out their website here.
The Skydio R1 is a revolutionary new drone that wants to be known as a camera. In truth it is an autonomously flying camera with incredible collision avoidance technology – and that is downplaying it some!
With some incredible hardware packed in to the super thin chassis the R1 will certainly have made the ears prick up from its better known rivals.
This looks like the first step in to this sort of drone territory and if you can’t stomach the high price tag it may pay to play a waiting game as new technology like this always starts off with a high price tag. But if you can’t wait for that and want a no hassle way of capturing incredible footage in testing environments there is nothing better right now!
- Ease of use
- Value for money