A new type of camera drone sets itself over the horizon, this time it is tiny, highly intelligent and affordable. The micro drone named ZANO has a footprint of only 6.5cm2 (about 2.5 sq inch) and weights only 55 grams, yet it is capable of fully autonomous flight and, very notable, it also has obstacle avoidance features while in the air. Other key features are HD video and photo capture via the drone’s integrated camera, digital image stabilization, as well as remote control from any iOS or Android mobile device. The tiny drone was launched a few days ago in the form of a Kickstarter campaign which is already well over its target, raising over 4 times its goal amount at the time of writing.
The drone has been created by Torquing Group, an Australian company relocated in the UK since 2007, with many years of experience in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for military as well as consumer segments. The idea of ZANO was born in 2010, and the first built UAV prototype had a 24cm2 footprint.
ZANO could take selfies to a whole new level, especially for people into highly engaging action sports, thanks to its reduced size and ease of use, especially since its creators claim that you do not necessarily need to actually fly it, but rather set the drone up with the tasks you want and let it handle them autonomously. It will have a number of flight modes such as hovering in one spot, follow or take a picture of you from certain distances, gesture control as well as free flight should you desire to pilot it. The drone also has a return to home feature when battery power gets low.
A feature worth emphasizing, as I’ve mentioned earlier, is the ability of the drone to avoid obstacles in its flight path, a very useful feature for low altitude UAVs. This is accomplished by means of onboard IR transceivers backed by clever software algorithms.
Being so small and lightweight ZANO is inherently susceptible to wind. The team of engineers tacked this shortcoming by fitting highly responsive motors capable of almost 100.000 rpm in either forwards or backwards, capable of changing rotation from maximum rpm in either direction in less than 1/5 of a second.
The drone communicates with your smartphone or mobile device running the ZANO app via WiFi and can stream live video to it. A SDK will also be released when ZANO will be officially launched, probability in June 2015, when deliveries should also start.
Judging based on released presentation videos, the drone’s 5 Megapixel integrated camera is capable of capturing relatively decent quality footage, which seems comparable what most recent smartphones can produce. While the camera itself is capable of 1080p video, right now it has been capped at 720p due primarily to bandwidth limitations. Image stabilization features via software are in place, so all of these should make up for a balanced package suitable for most purposes.
ZANO Quick Specs
- Dimensions and weight: 6.5cm2 (2.5 sq in) footprint, 55 grams (1.94 oz);
- CPU: 32bit 330 DMIPS capable;
- Video and audio capture: 5 Megapixel HD camera with digital image stabilization, digital microphone;
- Sensors: IR for obstacle avoidance, sonar and air pressure sensor for altitude;
- Rotors: 100,000 rpm bidirectional motors;
- Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n WiFi;
- Remote control: iOS and Android devices via app;
- Battery: 400mAh rechargeable and removable battery;
- Flight time: 10-15 minutes continuous operation;
- Range: 15-30 meters;
- Top speed: 40 Km/h (25 mph);
- Other features: front 8×8 LED RGB display for animations or flash, RGB LED landing lights, charging port, microSD card slot, 2W class D audio amplifier.
At the time of writing the minimum pledge which would get you a ZANO drone is 149 GBP which translates into about US $232 or 189 Euro. This will also get you free software capability upgrades for 12 months after launch, otherwise available via in app purchases. Find out more or even get a ZANO for youtself on the Kickstarter campaign page.