Autonomous flying and drones are today, however the degree of autonomy differs and most drones need to be controlled manually by expert pilots.
All this is about to change in a breakthrough that is clearly ahead of its times, the Skydio R1 is truly an autonomous drone that is hands free. This highly sophisticated device not only maneouvers around obstacles in real environments, it does so without any assistance from a human interface whatsoever. It tracks an object and understands the scene it is looking at moves itself accordingly.
The Skydio R1 has 13 in built cameras to cover every angle and movement around it. At the core it is fitted with an Nvidia TX1 similar to that in self driving cars. The Skydio’s working mechanism can be explained in three steps.
The first step in the vision processing pipeline is to understand where the vehicle is and how it is moving. To achieve this high textured regions in the environment are identified by the Skydio and it tracks how they move and then triangulates and tracks that motion. This motion estimate forms the foundation of everything else. The next step is to build a 3D understanding of what it has captured from the real world by computing stereodepth maps from each of the 13cameras.
The Skydio R1 uses a combination of deep neural networks to understand the people around it and how they move. For every person it sees it builds a unique visual identifier that it can use to tell people apart so that it can stay locked on to the right subject.
The motion planning system turns all the information about the environs into useful action so that it balances the objects in its way, while keeping the subject in view and capturing amazing videos while also predicting 4 seconds into the future of the subject’s movements. These planning commands get translated into action in the physical world in rudder speeds and gimbal angles. This is an incredibly complex system with a simple result. The Skydio R1 thus moves itself in a smooth cinematic way.
The system that Skydio uses for autonomous navigation on the R1 is 256 cores worth of Nvidia TX1 GPU. This level of autonomy makes the R1 not just hands-off but infact mind-off. It can also be controlled it manually if one wants to but it is designed to be launched and forgotten about for approximately 16 minutes and then land smoothly. If it encounters a huge crowd of people ean dlooses its subject, it informs the user end and promptly shuts down.
The first batch of Skydio R1 drones which are hand-made from aluminum and carbon at Skydio world headquarters and volcano lair in Redwood City, California are up for sale. Each drone comes with two batteries along with 64 gigabytes of on-board storage for the 4k gimbal camera. The price to own arguably the first fully autonomous and intelligent consumer drone in existence is US $2,500.