Wherever you go, the loyal AirDog follows. This new drone is the result of a killer Kickstarter campaign that's raised over $1.3 million and counting. From the ever-growing litter of new aerial drones, this one stood out for its unique “Follow Me” function, which tracks and chases the owner. Shots once impossible without a helicopter are not only possible now, but practically automatic.
We played fetch with some prototypes.
In all, the total AirDog package consists of a flying drone, a charging dock, an armband control unit called “AirLeash," and a smartphone app.
While the prototypes won't be identical to the final product, at this stage the sizable drone body is sturdy and fairly lightweight for its size. The chassis is made of rough fiberglass for beta testing, but representatives assured us the final product will be made of a smooth, shiny polycarbonate.
While in flying mode, the arms are fully extended and measure about two feet across. For the sake of portability, these arms can also fold in to form a much more compact, easily carried unit. Closing the arms was a careful process because it's important to align the flight blades for proper storage.
The AirLeash is a comfortable armband device that AirDog homes in on. The prototype was a little heavy, but not too cumbersome once you get moving. The design is also likely to change and improve before the AirDog releases. Onboard controls are simple and old-school, consisting of only a small digital screen and five raised buttons for better tactility.
The drone launches with the touch of a button, either on the smartphone app (still in beta) or the AirLeash, and can be pre-programmed to fly up to a specific height and position. From there, a suite of sensors keep track of the AirLeash, and representatives claimed the latest prototype even has onboard sonar for obstacle avoidance.
During a demonstration with pro skateboarder Maders Apse, the Airdog rose up into the air, stayed a comfortable distance away, and followed him back and forth across a halfpipe, all automatically. At the touch of a final button, Apse summoned the drone back down and caught his AirDog in one hand.
Action cameras can me mounted to film skateboarding, skiing, mountain biking, or whatever else without ever losing track of the moving subject. The mounting unit swivels and rotates with ease, and uses a gyro-stabilized gimbal sensor to keep the camera unit straight and steady, even while chasing or turning. In fact, AirDog reps claimed the drone can maintain a lock at speeds of up to 45 mph. No live streams or recoded videos were made available, so we can’t be sure how steady the shots actually came out, but from a close-up demo of the swiveling action, it looks promising.
The AirDog currently has mounts for GoPro cameras and the Sony X1000V, and the company is hoping to partner with other action camera companies before manufacturing begins in June. Kickstarter pre-orders are still available for $1,295, and the AirDog will ultimately retail for $1,495.