The one feature dearly lacking on GoPro action cameras is a set of wings. But the developers behind the AirDog have likely solved that problem with the creation of the “world’s first auto-follow action sports drone” designed to film the user from high above.
The US$995 AirDog is a waterproof, foldable, quad-copter drone that has a quirkily attractive LEGO-like appearance, but features a gyro-stabilised gimbal that reduces camera shake while automatically adjusting pitch and yaw. It’s serious machinery, developed by Helico Aerospace Industries, a group of extreme sports enthusiasts themselves.
Other electronic wizardry ensures that the drone doesn’t crash into anything, and remains stable when hovering or making sharp direction changes. As its name would suggest, the AirDog follows the user around like humankind’s best friend, thanks to the wrist-worn waterproof control device dubbed the AirLeash.
The drone is sent commands from this wireless tether — for up to 300m — to which it calculates and responds accordingly. In autonomous mode, the user can also adjust altitude and follow distance from the waterproof AirLeash.
The drone can be told to circle the user, hover above, “look down” or follow a predetermined track. Other flight modes will be added once the project reaches funding beyond its US$200 000 goal — which it has smashed with an incredible 36 days to spare.
The AirDog can also be directed through a regular RC controller, turning it into a standard drone. Of course, if users are not extreme sports enthusiasts or RC-know-it-alls, they can command the device through the AirDog’s custom smartphone app.
Although the drone only has a 10-20 minute fly time, it does have interchangeable batteries, and can take a battering from a 50km/h wind. It can also record at a startling 3km above sea level, which means recording high altitude snowboarding runs should be no problem.
If all goes to plan, the device will begin shipping from November 2014, according to the developer’s roadmap. Until then, it’s available for preorder from its Kickstarter page.