More than the usual electricity of Las Vegas air, the skies above CES are buzzing with drones and flying cameras — some tiny, some mighty, some simply smart and others downright brilliant.
Move over selfie stick. The sky (or maybe the convention center ceiling) is the limit at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show. Flying quadcopters, octocopters and wearable cameras that boomerang back to you — all have one thing in common: they are able to capture every moment like an eye in the sky.
Drones are so ubiquitous at this year’s CES, event organizers sponsored the Game of Drones, where remote-controlled drones faced off in a rowdy game of skyward bumper cars. For the event, participants used the Action Sports Airframe, a drone body design that’s able to resist fire, water and extreme impacts. The resulting carnage of crashes and broken blades.
These are just a few of the drones, cameras and copters buzzing around CES this year, but it’s clear we can expect more in the near future. Ben Wood, senior analyst as CCS Insights said drones, while exceedingly fun, are a magnet for all sorts of privacy and safety issues.
Reporting for CES, Justin Siraj said, “Unit sales of consumer drones are expected to hit 400,000 in 2015.”
As we watch for tech innovations that make drones smarter, more autonomous, with more refined imaging, we’ll also see much discussion on drone and flying-camera legislation.
The palm-sized Zano is a “nano” drone that makes aerial photography and HD video capture consumer friendly right out of the box.
“Drones are big this year at the International Consumer Electronics Show, but this is one of the smallest and smartest we’ve seen,” wrote Cnet.
Created by UK Torquing Group and featuring Lantronix xPico WiFi, the Zano is controlled by mobile device (iOS or Android). It can be set free to photograph and follow you from great heights, returning upon your mobile’s demand.
Boosted by a galactic kickstarter campaign that’s raised more than US$3 million, the Zano’s goal, according to Reece Crowther, is to make aerial photography accessible, easy and affordable for everyone.
The Zano even comes in different styles, including the fun-to-say Camo Zano.
DJI – Inspire 1
The next evolution in Chinese company DJI’s Inspire 1 bridges the gap between its consumer-focused Phantom drones with professional drones used in big Hollywood productions. Flown via remote-control, the Inspire 1 streams 4K HD video and feeds it back to the mobile device controller.
In addition to spectacular footage captured with 4K video and 12MP stills, the drone connects to GPS satellites that help it maintain incredible stability. Assisted by a 3-axis gimbal, the camera computes motion correction every millisecond.
If it gets inadvertently disconnected from GPS, it possesses the technical ability to “fly itself.”
With more than a mile range and a solid 18 minutes of flight time, this is a consumer-friendly drone with professional aerial camera capabilities.
At CES, the company is showing off its handheld mount system, which is makes the camera and gimbal easy to hold and quick to set up for on-the-ground shots.
Stick your GoPro camera in the mount and this autonomous flying camera drone will follow you wherever you go. It will hold the correct framing and offer up a variety of angles and steady perspectives.
By French company Squadrone System, which earned $1.3 million via a successful kickstarter campaign, the Hexo+ is an extreme athletes dream.
Co-founded by Xavier de Le Rue, a French big mountain snowboarder, Hexo+ was created to capture big sports moments, sans camera crew.
Pleiades – Spiri
The cool thing about Spiri by Canadian company Pleiades, is that it’s programmable.
Users can create code to enable the drone to follow music and voice commands. It comes with pre-programmed flight maneuvers, and a free simulator to test apps. Built with three video cameras, GPS and has a USB port for updates and add-ons.
Parrot – Bebop
The Bebop drone is a lightweight aerial camera embedded with GPS and controllable from your phone or tablet. With your mobile device, you can create flight maps and easily share videos and photos with friends.
The cool thing demoed at CES is the Bebop Skycontroller — essentially a console to control the drone. You dock your phone or tablet and it syncs to the drone and use two spiffy joysticks — one to control the camera, the other to control navigation. It has a 2-kilometer range and can be outfitted with FPV glasses for video streaming with telemetry.
Equipped with six Intel RealSense cameras and an Intel processor, a flock of Asctec Fireflys joined Intel CEO Brian Kzranich onstage during his keynote address and demonstrated the drone’s ability to maneuver autonomously and even push away from approaching people.
Demonstrating this drone-human dance, Krzanich joined others onstage for a lively game of drone ping pong.
The Firefly has been used for mapping research and LiDAR and outdoor navigation.
At the keynote, Jan Stumpf, CEO of Germany-based Ascending Technologies, came onstage and said, “[Firefly] is a game-changer for the whole industry.”
Nixie is a wrist-wearable camera prototype that pulled off a dazzling snapshot of the future during Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s keynote to kick off CES.
Nixie founders Christoph Kohstall and Jelena Jovanovic demonstrated the wristband turned flying camera for the first time in front of a large public audience. As Kohstall tossed his Nixie into the air. It immediately took flight, propelling forward before turning around and snapping a photo that was quickly displayed on the big screen for all to see.
No remote control required. It was fully autonomous.
Within minutes, #FlyNixie was the number three trending topic on Twitter as people shared on Twitter their own photos and the one shot by Nixie.
The Nixie team sees this as a natural evolution of technology, something that can make photography easier to do.
“We want to be the next point-and-shoot camera, one that gives you an amazing perspective because it can fly,” said Jovanovic
We all use pictures to capture our moments, but Nixie lets you capture the moment as it happens, she said.
Nixie was the first-place winner of Intel’s 2014 Make it Wearable challenge, a worldwide competition to encourage inventors to create innovative wearables using Intel’s Edison technology, a tiny computer chip and hardware platform Intel designed specifically for wearables and Internet of Things devices.
Editor’s Note: For more on this and other stories from the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show, watch the replay of Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s keynote address.