Can the Skydio become your ultimate wingman?
If you’re a rock climber, hiker, runner, dancer, or anyone who likes recording themselves while in motion, a personal drone companion can now do all the filming for you — completely autonomously.
Skydio, a San Francisco-based startup founded by three MIT alumni, is commercializing an autonomous video-capturing drone — dubbed by some as the “selfie drone” — that tracks and films a subject, while freely navigating any environment.
Called R1, the drone is equipped with 13 cameras that capture omnidirectional video. It launches and lands through an app — or by itself. On the app, the R1 can also be preset to certain filming and flying conditions or be controlled manually.
R1’s system integrates advanced algorithm components spanning perception, planning, and control, which give it unique intelligence “that’s analogous to how a person would navigate an environment,” Bry says.
On the perception side, the system uses computer vision to determine the location of objects. Using a deep neural network, it compiles information on each object and identifies each individual by, say, clothing and size. “For each person it sees, it builds up a unique visual identification to tell people apart and stays focused on the right person,” Bry says.
That data feeds into a motion-planning system, which pinpoints a subject’s location and predicts their next move. It also recognizes maneuvering limits in one area to optimize filming. “All information is constantly traded off and balanced … to capture a smooth video,” Bry says. The predictive mode allows the drone to actually lead a person as they maneuver through difficult terrain.
The system also uses deep neural networks, deep learning and machine learning that allwos it to build up unique visual identifiers to allow it to discriminate between different people and identify objects. This allows it to stay locked onto a single individual, switch between individuals, and perform predictive analysis of the subjects expected movements.
Finally, the control system takes all information to execute the drone’s plan in real time. “No other system has this depth of understanding,” Bry says. Others may have one or two components, “but none has a full, end-to-end, autonomous [software] stack designed and integrated together.”
Check out the Skydio video.
For detailed information on how the system works, check out the video Hands-On with Skydio R1 Autonomous Drone! where Skydio CEO and co-founder Adam Bry discusses the computer vision and collision avoidance technology that makes the R1 work. A detailed discussion of the R1 drone specifications and modes of operation are provided near the end of the video.