Drones everywhere. CES has been littered with new drones from many of the industry’s biggest names, all vying for your attention, and proving that the business for UAVs still has much to offer.
China’s DJI, one of the most renowned manufacturers, was surprisingly low key this time around though. It did however launch two new versions of its Inspire and Phantom drones but neither is a dramatic change for the company. GoPro was tipped to unveil its long awaited drone, Karma, but it doesn’t look like it’s coming this time around but it’s expected sometime this year
Intel, on the other hand, was one of the first drone exhibits at CES to grab the spotlight. Along with the company Yuneec which it owns a stake in, it revealed its new drone, the Typhoon H, which can autonomously avoid collisions and obstacles in its path through RealSense technology.
It comes with a 4K camera and will cost around $1,800. “At this price point, no other drone comes close to the Typhoon H in terms capability and value,” said Yuneec CEO Yu Tian. Intel and Yuneec revealed no release date but said it will come within six months.
Safety was a common theme among drones this week in the wake of some recent accidents, such the drone that collided with skier Marcel Hirsher recently.
Belgian company Fleye displayed its drone that looks more like a ball. That’s because it is encased in a protective shell to avoid injuries from the rotors but whether or not it will be as efficient as its peers remains to be seen.
China’s Tencent and Zerotech demonstrated its Ying drone, which is based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Flight platform, and designed by both companies and is decked out with a 4K camera.
Parrot, another major player in drones, revealed what has been called a “drone on steroids” on the event floor. The Parrot DISCO drone eschews the typical quadcopter design of most UAVs and looks more like a plane with its fixed wing design. It uses an auto pilot feature to autonomously fly to its destination and can stay airborne for up to 45 minutes with speeds of up to 50mph. No pricing or release date has been confirmed.
California’s Lily Robotics ended up as one of the stars of CES this year when it came to drones. It won this year’s CES Innovation Award for its Lily Camera drone. The company describes it as a “throw-and-shoot” camera where the user just needs to throw the device into the air to commence filming and from there it’s operated with a wrist band controller. It will cost $800 and begins shipping next month.
ProDrone meanwhile revealed Byrd, which is available in three different models, ranging from 1080p to 4K cameras and lengthier flight times for the premium editions.
All of these announcement and exhibits paled compared to one brazen company with one of the more bizarre drone displays. Ehang, the Chinese company behind the Ghost drone, showed off the staggering 184, a massive quadcopter capable of carrying one person that it says will be the future of transportation. At least that’s what the company claims and that’s all we really have to go on right now. The vehicle weighs about 440 pounds and can fly for 23 minutes at speeds of up to 60mph. It’s fully autonomous and doesn’t even have any controls on board in case of an emergency.
Realistically you would think this UAV is many years away from actually being released and served more as an attention getter for the company, which still has regular drones to market. However the company’s CEO told reporters that the drone will in fact be released later this year and cost between $200,000 and $300,000 but it will face a huge barricade when it comes to legal matters. “The whole world never had something like this before,” said CEO Shang Hsiao.
Drones in general have become commonplace, as evidenced by the sheer number on display at CES, but Ehang shows that there is still a lot of innovation, risks, and legal wrangling ahead.