Also note the fully equipped police surveillance van plus drone, from FlyMotion
Also industrial control and mapping were big themes, such as from vendors Autel and Ebee. Note that this Autel drone uses rotating engines for VTOL – kind of like the military “Osprey” aircraft.
Also “UAV” is becoming too narrow a name, because drones were not limited to the air. There were underwater drones (such as TTrobotix), water surface, and land drones (both from Parrot). There was even one that rode on tracks that could be set up between camera tripods.
Most of the vendors of course boasted about image quality and stabilization. In fact, several drone makers had productized their MEMS-based gimbal stabilization systems, which were originally developed for their drones, in handheld or body-worn camera mounts.
But in addition to this, there were a host of other features. Flight controls continued to be abstracted in several ways, such as set maneuvers at the touch of a button. A “follow me” type of function was very new last year (with vendors such as FlyDog), but this year it seemed everybody had copied this feature, with a similar system – for example, a person wears a watch with GPS, the watch commands the drone to fly around the watch.
Of course, the big problem with “follow me” is that the drone can fly into objects, and there were many innovative solutions to this problem. Companies like Intel and ZeroTech had image recognition, parallax, and even sonar to avoid obstacles. Intel integrated their “RealSense” computer vision, and demonstrated by asking the pilot to fly into the white column in the photo. The drone neatly steps around the column all by itself.
Also, speaking of Intel – one of the coolest drone videos I have ever seen was unveiled by Intel at the opening Keynote speech. It is viewable on Youtube – check it out, you will be amazed.
Then there was the low-tech approach to this problem. Vendor XT Flyer sells a cage with rubber bands surrounding the drone, so it just bounces off objects! LOL.
Another trend was regulation and enforcement. The FAA was there, as was an organization called Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). The latter cooperated with the AMA on the “Know before you fly” education program. I asked an FAA rep what he thought of the AMA’s recent instruction to its members, asking us not to register until they can finish negotiation. He is an AMA member and an avid RC pilot, but seemed a bit frustrated with the AMA’s position. His attitude was that the registration is so simple and cheap that there is not much point in discussing it endlessly.
On the “enforcement” side – I took a bunch of photos of the Airbus display (see Picassa album). This is a division of the same Airbus that makes commercial aircraft. They were promoting a system using sonar, radar, laser, and RF jamming to detect drone, find their pilots, and disable the drones. Their poster picture was of a stadium with a drone approaching – certainly one use case for wanting to disable a drone and find the pilot. But I didn’t get a chance to talk to them about who their customers are, and how permission to use such a system might be regulated.
Also saw several VTOL-capable designs. In addition to the previously mentioned VTOL aircraft from Autel, I saw another very simple and creative design from XCraft. It is a quad with two of the props out on extended wings. Thus, it can turn sideways and become a flying wing, capable of 60mph flight. This company was funded by Shark Tank.
Other oddities I saw were:
• a drone capable of carrying a cell phone (to take video from your phone) (XCraft);
• a drone with a gas engine to run a generator for the battery, and thus extend flight time to 2 hours (Walkera);
• a giant drone capable of carrying two human passengers (EHang), and;
• a drone with folding arms that can be carried as a compact rectangle (Prodrone) This one also had an IR camera
In summary, the drone field seems to be expanding and differentiating at an amazing rate. I also picked up a folder full of brochures at the show. I will drop them off with Jim (or whatever drone enthusiast I can find) next time I am at the SEFSD field. See them if you want to have a look.