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News & Notes

Drone News from CES

Announcements from DJI, Yuneec, and more

January 5, 2017

Updated on Jan. 6, 2017

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017 was ripe with drones and drone-related announcements. Here's a slice of drone news that came from CES.

And prepare yourself: CES showcases items that are both ready for consumers and not-so-ready for consumers. Remember the human-carrying drone from last year? Yeah, you still can't use a flying car for your morning commute — yet.

Known for its lovably vibrant X-Star and kooky viral videos, Autel took a more serious approach with its announcement of the electric VTOL hybrid drone, the Kestrel.

This commercial offering, with potential applications ranging from security to resource mapping to disaster management, appears to be the company’s first foray out of its original line of X-Star quadcopters. The Kestrel can fly up to 40 mph with 1.2 to 2 hours of flight time and will include flight planning tools, a ground control station, and data analysis tools.

The Kestrel should be available this year, according to a press release.

Autel also announced its intent to research and develop a smaller 5 kg VTOL drone concept to expand the drones’ range of applications and two new camera modules for the current X-Star quadcopters.

Amimon may not be as familiar to those in the drone community as Yuneec or DJI. But for some, especially drone racers, the company's Connex line of transmission technology is a gold-standard of quality. Now, Amimon is offering a racing drone of its own: the Falcore.

The Falcore is a carbon fiber racing drone designed for pilots with any level of experience, from beginners to pros. The package includes the drone itself with built-in ProSight HD video link, a Falcore remote control, and a video receiver.

This drone also features a Shield flight mode that uses onboard sonar and barometer sensors to automatically maintain altitude, allowing newer pilots to learn by simply guiding the drone’s direction.

The Connex Falcore is currently available for pre-order for $799
The PL2300 is one of three new camera drones Polaroid will release in 2017.

Polaroid, a name familiar to both contemporary hipsters and those who grew up using its instant photo camera, debuted its new line of camera drones made for "on-the-go consumers who are ready to fly."

According to a press release, the company aims to release three different drone models: PL2500, PL2300, and  PL1000. Image quality ranges from 720p to 1080 p, flight times run from 8-15 minutes, and all feature some autonomous functions. Polaroid also touts the fact that all models are light enough that they don’t need to be registered through the FAA.

“Throughout our 80-year history, Polaroid has focused on making new and exciting technologies accessible to the everyday consumer and of course, providing exceptional value at every turn – that’s exactly what we’re doing with our new drone line,” said Polaroid President and CEO Scott W. Hardy in a press release. “We’re excited to see just how creative consumers can be as they take to the skies with the ability to capture images and video from these new perspectives.”

Polaroid states that its drones are “offered by Abrim Enterprises, Inc” and will retail between $59.99 and $269.99. The drones are expected to be available in spring and summer 2017.
We're all wondering: Will GoPro CEO Nick Woodman bring the same kind of excitement to the 2017 re-launch of Karma as he did to the initial launch in November last year?

OK, this isn’t really a new tech announcement. But GoPro did announce that it plans to re-launch its currently recalled Karma drone sometime in 2017. No hard date is set at this point.

GoPro strategically announced the Karma recall on Nov.8 — yes, the day U.S. citizens voted for their next president. Despite being buried by other news on the day of its announcement, the Karma’s failure has reflected poorly on a company that has been facing various other challenges.

A small number of Karma units were powering down during operation as a result of loose battery compartments. On Jan. 5, according to TechCrunch, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman said the loose battery issue can be fixed with a piece of tape. That’s right folks, a piece of ordinary tape. We’ll see if Karma 2.0 can fly without any unnecessary adhesive.  

The original GoPro Karma retailed for $799-$1,099 for the original model. Based on upgrades and competitor pricing, cost may change for the updated version.
A prototype van that could serve as a drone landing platform and docking station.

Luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz showcased plans for an automated vehicle called Vision Van. This van will apparently help serve as a landing platform and docking station for delivery drones.

According to Trucks.com, “The van uses an LED display on its Black Panel radiator grille and rear to communicate with other drivers, notifying them when it is stopping, turning, or releasing drones.” It can also receive information on road conditions and drone details from the dashboard.

But don’t get too excited. You probably won’t see drones zooming off of the Vision Van anytime soon. 😢


The carbon fiber Draco (cue all the Draco Malfoy puns) by UVify is a high-performance racing drone with a modular design that makes it easy to modify and repair.

TechCrunch was lucky enough to get a peek at Draco before the many attendees at CES, reporting that Draco can hit up to 100 mph — talk about fast. TechCrunch also said that the drone performed “sweeping 360 barrel rolls and impressive quick drops/recoveries.”

Draco is available for pre-order for $499 (JSYK, shipping is $50).
The new commercial H520 drone from Yuneec.

Yuneec announced Jan. 5 a new commercial drone called the H520, which uses the same six-rotor airframe seen on the Typhoon H and Typhoon H with RealSense. Apparently, the orange H520 boasts longer flight time, greater payload capacity, and more enhanced components than its other six-rotor siblings. We’ve reached out to Yuneec for more specifics on the differences and will update when we hear back.

The H520 is equipped with Intel RealSense Technology for obstacle avoidance and is designed for law enforcement, search-and-rescue, broadcast, cinema, and vertical inspection (like cell towers or windmills). The company will offer three camera options, each geared toward different markets.

“With its suite of advanced features, the H520 is dependable, reliable, and capable of fulfilling virtually any commercial need,” Yu Tian, group CIO and CEO of Yuneec Technology Co., Ltd., said in a press release. “Pilots can fly with confidence knowing they have an array of camera options for a variety of situations and industry-leading safety features including intelligent obstacle navigation with Intel RealSense Technology.” The H520 will be available later in 2017 and prices will range from $2,499 to $4,499. The company will also launch a software developer kit for the H520 later this year.

News from the world’s largest consumer drone manufacturer shouldn’t come as a big surprise. There are no brand new drones for the UAS community to lose its collective mind over, but there’s an abundance of other DJI goodies. Here’s a quick rundown:
Phantom 4 Chinese New Year Edition

DJI is offering a colorful rendition of its typically white, sleek Phantom 4. The Phantom 4 Chinese New Year Edition dons a phoenix and Earth’s four basic elements (air, fire, water, and earth) created by illustrator and designer Martin Sati.  This special edition Phantom 4 costs $1,199 and will begin shipping on Jan. 23. Get it here.
Ground Station Pro

This free iPad app is designed for professional drone operators. Compatible with most DJI drones and Zenmuse cameras, this app allows pilots to plan and control autonomous flights. The 3D Map Area function generates flight paths after receiving flight zone and camera parameters.  All image data captured during these flights can be input into 3D reconstruction software to create 3D maps. The Ground Station Pro app is available in the App store for free and only for iPad.
CrystalSky Monitor

What DJI describes as an “ultra-bright screen that is clearly visible in sunlight,” the CrystalSky Monitor is apparently four times as bright as most mobile devices ― something any drone pilot would celebrate on those bright, sunny days. Using the DJI GO app, the CrystsalSky Monitor uses optimized video decoding to provide real-time video with minimal latency. CrystalSky can operate in temperatures as low a -4⁰F and as high as 104⁰F, and will come in 7.85 inch and 5.5 inch screens. DJI will release pricing and availability in the future. Learn more here.

Oh, and DJI also announced that it acquired a majority stake in camera company Hasselblad. No big deal.
Featured image: CES