Drones have always been a point of attraction for professional grade photographers. However, of late, these awesome machines have slowly but surely swayed out of the purchasing power of the common consumers.
Due to being placed at the higher end of the price spectrum and requiring masterful skills of craft to manoeuvre these highly intricate devices, they became a product that could only be bought by a certain class of users. But, believe us, those days are no more and the new sun is rising over the horizon. Those of you who kept in touch with developments at the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas, Nevada in the beginning of January, must be familiar with the tons of product demonstrations carried out by manufacturers from all over the world. One could take a cue from these displays that the age of selfie drones has dawned upon mankind, finally!
We are going to enter an era where price reductions and fabulous innovations are going to be the order of the day. In November, last year, the mighty DJI released the phenomenal DJI Mavic Pro for just $999. At that point in time, that price was considered a reasonable and rather affordable one for a device that boasted an exquisite array of top quality features such as autonomous takeoff and landing capabilities. It also included a 12megapixel camera that had the ability to shoot video footages at 4K Ultra High Definition. Moreover, it had the enviable prowess to be folded up into a small brick that could be stuffed into your ever so small backpack.
The DJI Mavic Pro still continues to be a wonderful device a couple of months on since its launch. However, as early as January, we are now being introduced to even smaller drones that could be easily placed in the palm of your hands or stuffed into your trousers’ pockets and could cost as low as $299.
The two leading contenders for this year’s show are ZeroTech’s Dobby that can be bought for $399 and Zero Zero Robotic’s Hover Camera Passport that can be purchased for just $599. Both these devices have the incredible ability to revolve around your head and keep track of your movements in immaculate precision. Having said that, both these machines are very user-friendly similar to point and shoot cameras. What’s more, the Hover Camera Passport can takeoff just by pressing a single key.
“We regard it as your personalized photographer who moves about with the sole aim to cover you all the time and be leaders in camera selfie”, said Zero Zero’s CEO Mr. Menqui Wang based in Beijing. “It assists you in taking camera selfies, photographs and recording videos with your family, friends and loved ones; thereby capturing the most memorable moments in your lives for ever and ever – without excluding any single person”, he added.
Hover Passport Camera Drone Balance itself
The Passport is about 8.5 ounces in weight and can be folded into two halves almost about the same size and thickness of your daily diary. The four rotors can be safely cramped inside a box-shaped frame made of carbon fibre. Hence, you can transport your drone along with you wherever you go just like your favorite novel or some other book.
The Dobby is even lighter in weight since it weighs only 7 ounces. When you fold the rotors up into their protective frame, the drone becomes of the same size and shape as an eyeglass case – one that can be easily stuffed in the pocket of your coat, jacket or even trousers.
Both the versions are below the 0.55 pounds limit prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Drones which do not conform to this limit must get themselves registered before being taken outdoors for flying purposes. Having said that, both the machines are agile, nifty and small enough to be indulged in indoor flights.
Such small sizes certainly have a few disadvantages of their own. In case of gusty conditions, these machines might not be able to display a lot of resistance. Moreover, the batteries only provide a flight duration of about 10 minutes after being charged fully. In contrast, the DJI Mavic Pro weighs 1.6 pounds and offers a flight duration of approximately 27 minutes which is quite impressive.
However, remember that Dobby and Passport have not been designed for documentary cinematographers and adventure enthusiasts. They have been developed especially for the consumers who are merely interested in posting their family images and videos to their Facebook walls.
According to Wang, “A vast majority of our consumers and target audience are dronies who are new entrants into the world of drones.” So, if you are one of such users, you would agree with us and the manufacturers that you won’t be interested in shooting videos that are longer than 30 seconds.
Both the drones come with additional batteries in their original packaging and can be fitted into their designated slots with relative ease. The Passport includes two extra batteries while Dobby allows pilots to buy backups as add-ons.
Both the Dobby and Passport can be manoeuvred via smartphone apps that boast intuitive user interfaces. However, it is the ease with which the drones can be activated is what really renders these machines absolutely remarkable. And when one watches them hover in front of you using their own generated power, a charisma and a sense of bewilderment enthralls you all over.
According to Wang, “We endeavor to make this experience as simple as it can get. We do not want to take all the hassle in flying a drone. We just want a drone to fly by itself and capture the moment of your life!”
In order to set the Passport whizzing into the air, you just have to grab it by its spine, push the power button, hear the sound of rotors spinning to their desired RPM and let the device go. What’s more, you can even throw the Passport into the air just like a Frisbee. The device gets its direction automatically and has the ability to return back to you like a Pro.
On the other hand, the Dobby gets started in the palm of your hand and remains there until you pull your hand away.
Both the selfie drones, the Dobby and the Passport, promise a couple of pre-programmed modes of flight that let them spin 360 degrees or revolve in the room as you take your seat in the room with your family for an evening supper. Your motions are detected by these tremendous machines by virtue of facial recognition software. They even move around you at very close distances hovering at your eye level.
As soon as you raise your hand, a small red colored light placed at the front face of the Passport starts off a countdown to three and the camera captures your photograph (camera selfie), with you positioned in the centre of the frame. Hold on, your friends won’t get cut off! There will sufficient room for them in the photograph.
As you move forward, the drone will move in the backward direction. When you move backward, the drone will move in the forward direction. As you walk on foot, taking a stroll, the drone will hover over your head searching for your smiling face.
The rotors of the Passport will cease to work as soon as you extend your hand and grab the gizmo from thin air. The mesh frame made of carbon fibre will ensure that yours and your kids’ fingers remain safe from any harm.
Both of the selfie drones come with 13 megapixel cameras. The Dobby captures video footage at 1080p resolution while the Passport lets the pilots to choose from High Definition (720p), full High Definition (1080p) or Ultra High Definition (4K).
We haven’t carried out practical tests on these drones in our labs and without their proper inspection, it is rather difficult to decide whether they live up to the promises that they have made. Having said that, they look to be very user friendly and video footages displayed by the manufacturers appeared quite eye-catching.
Both the versions are likely to improve with the passage of time. Numerous automated features in both Dobby and Passport were integrated by virtue of software updates. Remember that the models were launched initially in the autumn seasons last year. According to the CEO, the consumers can expect to receive another update to the Passport later this month. This update will contain gesture manipulation and facial recognition as discussed earlier.
Well, consumers should get themselves ready for more and more options. The $400 selfie drone known as Kimon by Keyshare Technology and another model that is in the pipeline by Sim Too and is likely to cost just $300 this spring, are going to raise the bar to a whole new level. This certainly promises more reduction in prices and unimaginable improvement in features as we move ahead in the year 2017.