AirDog is a very interesting crowdfunding project launched today, a quadcopter drone that can follow you completely autonomously, while taking aerial footage of yourself performing your favorite sports and activities. This personal drone is designed to be used with GoPro cameras, and promises to deliver epic aerial third person shots of the action. The setup is very simple, via a smartphone app, and thanks to the wearable weather sealed tracker, the drone can follow you practically everywhere.
The idea isn’t new of course, a variety of aerial imaging solutions already exist, addressing consumer as well as professional segments of the market, some of the professional alternatives being actually very competent aircraft, capable of high payloads and decent flight time. There is a downside however, and this is where AirDog comes in.
Existing camera drones, for instance the well-known DJI Phantom lineup or the professional EYE-Droid or DJI S-series multi-rotor platforms, in their out-of-the-box setup they all require manual control, and this is practically impossible if you’re in the middle of the action. Of course there is a wide range o accessories, numerous custom builds, as well as software support through which autonomous flight capability is implemented, however not everyone has the budget, willingness or ability to perform such a build.
There are also relatively cheap alternatives, for instance the Parrot AR.Drone comes with an integrated on-board camera, and can be programmed for various flight modes via a mobile app, it represents a great implementation for its cost, however image quality is not great and features are a bit limited.
These are the main promises of the AirDog project — fully autonomous flight, seamless setup extremely stable, high quality footage, thanks to the on-board 2-axis active gyro-stabilized gimbal, which holds and positions the GoPro camera, allowing for vibration-free shots and great precision in camera positioning and framing. Based on presentation videos at least, the results seem to be of very good to professional quality.
The AirDog system is comprised of the quadcopter drone carrying a GoPro camera in its waterproof case (its creators claim it to be a premiere in the field), a wearable programmable tracker called the AirLeash, and an AirDog app, available for either iOS or Android devices, through which most of the configuration tasks will be carried out.
Developers say they have added the wearable AirLeash tracker to the system because of inherent disadvantages that smartphones and other mobile devices have, these are not portable enough to be carried and operated in the middle of the action, most of the devices are not weather-sealed, their GPS sensors do not provide required precision measurements, and last but not least, their Wireless radios do not provide adequate tracking range.
The AirDog drone is packed with features, it has a foldable body which is also weather resistant, its creators claim it is very robust, easily serviceable and very versatile. It has a weight of 1.7 kg (about 3.9 pounds) with battery, has a flight speed up to 64 km/h or 40 mph, it can operate in wind speeds up to 23 knots and at a flight ceiling of about 3000 meters. Communication is accomplished via long-range Bluetooth radio.
Price is US$ 995-1.195 (up to 900 Euro) for Kickstarter supporters, while retail price is estimated around US$ 1.495 or about 1100 Euro, and deliveries should take place by the end of November this year.
The AirDog has a variety of flight modes, like auto-follow, where the drone will follow you at a preset distance and altitude, track follow, where the drone will follow a preset route, hover in a fixed position and just aim the camera at your position, circling and so on. It can also be flown manually via an optional remote control.
There still are some minor inconveniences to be addressed by the developers team, for instance obstacle avoidance while the drone is in the air, and also the size of the AirLeash tracker, for which the team states that they have created a prototype two times smaller, but we will probably see some solutions for these by the time the product is commercially launched.
AirDog was created by a team of of Latvian engineers and enthusiasts, Helico Aerospace Industries and they also have a California-based subsidiary. If the project is funded, manufacturing will pe carried out by Latvia-based HansaMatrix electronics manufacturer.
Below you can watch a superb video of what AirDog claims to be able to do.