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Know all about the Skydio 2 drone, a strong contender for DJI's Mavic models

A few days ago we notified the announcement of Skydio 2, drone of the company that bears the same name. Of American origin, the Skydio is 10 years old, but it really became known after the release of the Skydio r1, its first commercial drone released last year. We already did a article in text and a video about her for drawing a lot of attention regarding the autonomous flight deviating from objects along the way.

The Skydio R1 effectively brought the autonomous flight (read diverting objects in the path following a "point" (person, car, etc.)) to a level far above everything that existed in the market for consumers. However, it was not popularized, and the main reason was certainly the price – $ 2,500 buying in the US Adding the fees, the final price stays at $ 2,750 on average.

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For comparison, $ 2,500 twice a Mavic 2 Zoom, and despite deviating from just about everything and bringing a camera 4K 30fps, the R1 has more limitations – low flight range of only 16 minutes and control by smartphone only just two of them. With this, the flight distance is no more than 200 meters, which makes it a very specific drone to fly near the driver and greatly limits the niche of interest.

Skydio 2

With the launch of Skydio 2, The scenario changes a lot and sets the company drone as a model to be beaten in various specifications, besides putting a pressure on the DJI that she never felt. Certainly, at least in specs, the Chinese company now has a very strong competitor with good growth potential overnight, but of course no comparison in terms of sales, as it will take years for a company to get closer. from DJI if that will happen sometime.

Even with the good specs of Skydio 2, taking DJI market in the medium term is impossible

Autonomous: technology that does not depend on commands to function, acting independently

As highlights, the Skydio 2 drone comes even better than the previous version for its biggest feature – flying autonomously bypassing objects. The company even said that the drone can be given to children and that if they can hit it and break it, they get the free fix. If you can't fix it, she'll give you a new one. Just kidding?

And you know who does the work of autonomous processing calculations: a chip Nvidia Tegra X2, reference in the market and used even in the first versions of cars of the Tesla.


NVIDIA Tegra X2 and Programming

Being autonomous for a car, drone, robot or anything that needs to interact and make quick "decisions" to analyze a lot of data and variables before you know what to do. And that has two crucial points: the first one hardware that you can do many calculations very quickly, because a second longer will make a difference. Therefore, the processor is crucial. If it is not really fast and good, it simply will not be possible for the other party to function.

And the other part programmingAfter all, it is no use having absolutely good hardware if it is not used properly. Just give them a race car for those who can't drive, a full-featured smartphone for those who can only use WhatsApp, or a powerful next-generation computer for those who will only use office applications. Anyway, nothing more than some silly comparatives to show that the hardware needs good software for the perfect marriage.

On the other hand, it is no good idea and advanced programming logic if the hardware, in this case the drone, cannot calculate all the data to decide what to do. So Skydio needed a high performance processor, and nothing better than betting on one that is already renowned in this market.

Fast processing by analyzing different situations, delivering something never before seen in drones, far ahead of any other consumer solution

then that comes in Nvidia with your line processors Tegra. In Skydio R1, the Tegra X1, and in the new Skydio 2 of course there was an update to the latest version, the Tegra X2. With this line of processors, Skydio has solved one important issue: It has the performance for its software, which is the other side to make it possible to achieve autonomous flight at the level that the company's drones have.


6 4k cameras analyzing everything

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The work of capturing the whole scenario is done by nothing less than six 4K camerasYes, in addition to a specific camera for photos and videos. This combo of cameras that captures the environment around the drone and plays for the analysis software. After this process, the system makes a decision to find the best way to follow the selected point, in this case a person, dog, etc.

The company pointed out that Skydio 2 runs nine deep networks customized to create a 3D model of the environment with refresh rate of more than 1 million points per second. This way the drone can identify up to 10 objects at a time and dodge obstacles with speed at 60km / h.

In the video below it is possible to check how the drone sees the scenery through one of the cameras used for analysis. The rest is done by software and logically by hardware in order to deliver a quick response to decision making.

Still on Skydio 2's standalone feature, one of the big changes is in new Deep Learning-based depth perception algorithm instead of more conventional stereo (photogrammetric) techniques – the Skydio R1 used stereo depth perception with 12 VGA cameras. This last one, as you explain Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio, has good results in simple scenes, but begins to have problems in environments with repeated structures or surfaces without texture.

"What people do by combining understanding of the contextual scene with photometric information – when we look at a scene we know what things are and generally how the world is structured around us. And the combination of this information means that people are animals essentially have a perfect depth perception based only on sight. We have created a deep learning algorithm that mimics that (…). " – Adam Bry.


4K 60FPS camera and more

But a drone needs more than "just" to fly autonomously to be successful, and the company has added a number of improvements over the previous model. An example is the 3-axis gilbal camera system with support for 4K resolution at 100fps 60fps – this is the first drone of this size to bring this number of frames per second at 4K resolution with this rate of bit rate.

The sensor used a Sony IMX577 12.3MP 1 / 2.3 inch, controlled by a SoC Snapdragon 605 and Adreno 615 GPU. The 20mm lens has f / 2.8 aperture and ISO 100-3200 for photos and video, plus 4K 60fps and FullHD at 120fps. Other characteristics that deserve to be highlighted RAW format recording and H.264 and H.265 codecs. Below you can see some images captured by the drone:

2 different controls

Another major limitation of the company's first drone has been remedied: Skydio has released two accessories that act as a control for the drone. Perhaps most interesting for the public interested in autonomous flight is the Beacon, A "mini" control with a range of 1.5km. He does not need a smartphone and can give very interesting commands very simply, without having to look at the controller and go unnoticed while shooting.

By directly "turning on" the control and the drone, both are always in contact and the drone will follow the control regardless of vision loss. A signal makes both are always connected and, by quick and simple commands, the user can zoom in or out of the drone. To record scenes like on a trail or bike ride where the user is alone, just "send" the drone to follow and forget that it exists. Commands on this control can also change the way it will follow in order to generate images of different angle. And unlike a Mavic 2, For example, he will not stop when he finds a mere tree branch.

The other control has the "traditional" drone format, which requires an Android or iOS smartphone. With it, the user has camera vision and more complete functions such as different flight profiles and predefined recording modes – a standard feature in every good drone available today.

Controls do not accompany the $ 999 drone

The range of 3.5kmIt is far above what can be controlled only with the use of the smartphone (about 200 meters), but here we have one of the points where DJI's top-notch models remain in price, which already reach 8 kilometers. that story: a lot less, but in the profile of this product and who it intends to reach, will not be a big counter.

The downside is that neither control comes with the drone, each costing $ 150, so the tax-free price with at least one of the controls rises to $ 1,150.


The perfect Skydio 2?

But then: Is Skydio a perfect drone? At the!

Apart from the flight distance issue, which could perhaps be around 7 kilometers, but in my view the main problem is associated with flight range. Yes, it has improved compared to the previous model, but still little. Skydio 2 can fly for up to 23 minutesseven more than Skydio R1 and eight less than a Mavic 2. Bad? hmmmmm no and yes.

I'm one of the people who thinks the next step is to focus on increasing flight range – and to focus heavily on it. I could find some arguments for defending this drone profile against a drone like Mavic 2, which doesn't have such a big focus on "following" something. If the idea follows and is not so far away, it is easier to change the battery. But have you ever had a drone? If so, comment and say what you think of it; If not, do so when shopping, because something that irritates me deeply.

I live in Florianpolis, a city with countless wonderful locations that yield spectacular images. Even though it's an island, just climb the drone to quickly capture beautiful images. But the process of plugging in and getting somewhere already takes 10% of the battery. Understanding what looks best and the ideal angle for capturing a photo always takes a while. If it's video, surely recording more than one shot on the same route helps, but it has to come and go, and that takes time. Lastly, the battery warning messages that usually end up in the remaining 25% – this time flies as fast as the fastest drone in existence. Of those 23 minutes, less than 15 minutes has entered my head.

It would be a dream for a drone of this profile to fly for 45 minutes

Mavic 2 excels in this regard – a drone with good flying range. But I will be very happy when they reach 45 minutes. A number that seems very high, but, as I said, aside from wasting time we will have just over 30 for actual use.

Particularly, I find the flight time one of the main features where drones must advance. The use of drones is closely associated with capturing images of angles and places that can be seen from above. The battery with flight autonomy of "only" 26 minutes too bad? No, but getting over 30 minutes or so, although it doesn't seem like much, is quite a thing and would make a big difference in the flight experience. Also, by default, every drone will now issue warnings extremely boring to land when 25% or less of the battery is left, yes to remove the warnings, they are there because needed. This time, or slightly less than we normally use to return the drone, should be considered in full time as put above.


What will be DJI's answer?

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What about DJI? At the very least, it would not be simply to downplay a company like it for several very simple points. She the company that defined the entire consumer drone segment to date. Almost everything in technology reference for this type of product was created by her – the "folding" drones, gimbal systems that revolutionized drone image quality, control distance, pre-defined auto-recording modes. Not to mention the security issue, which is unmatched by any other in the business, DJI invests a lot in this. You can't compare the safety of Skydio 2's autonomous flight with the much higher altitude flight safety systems of the Mavic models coupled with DJI's software security technologies, these are different things that would be perfect if combined.

But as I said no one can say that DJI does not pay attention to this important issue. Even announced that all your drones launched from the first day of 2020 will bring a system to detect approaching helicopters and planes, called AirSenseWhich is quite interesting for everyone's safety with the widespread popularization of this type of product.

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When it comes to camera quality, the smallest of problems for DJI. She bought the Hasselblad In 2017, that's a reference when it comes to photography. Mavic 2 Pro is the first effective product to carry the brand seal, but certainly the expertise is being implemented in several others. A camera with 4K and 60FPS resolution would be no problem, maybe it would even have been applied in Mavic 2 Pro if the competition was stronger before. And it will be a natural way for the next drone, especially with a model like Skydio 2 pushing and bringing that feature.

Drone control system, distance control, management software, product quality – all very common features in a DJI. But, there is a point that should take time to reach, and precisely what we are talking about since the beginning: the autonomous flight. Yes, the giant DJI is much larger than Skydio, but it is already clear that the Chinese company has a different concept from the American one. It does not add third party parts to your products. She develops or buys the company, and when we talk about a Nvidia Tegra X2-level processing chip, it's not so simple to develop.

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Sensors in all directions, high quality camera and portability of the Mavic line

Something is not projected at this level quickly and without high investment, not to mention that Nvidia has done so considering a number of usability that can return the investment. Something more focused on a product that is harder to get back. The models Mavic Air And, especially Mavic 2 bring the Active track They are very limited and can not even be compared with Skydio's technology due to the level of attention given to this technology in each of the drones, which, as explained above, are already at a very advanced level. Skydio – even with help from Nvidia herself to achieve the best scenario.

However, again, DJI is not at all unusual if the company pays more attention to this feature, perhaps even buy some specialized company to speed up the process or even add an existing chip to advance this feature.


Conclusion

A model as striking for its differentials as Skydio 2 tends to force greater competitiveness and technology advancement, as well as lower prices, even though the company still has a very small share of real sales. I remember here that others, like Parrot and YuneecThey've been trying to fight with DJI for years, but they can't cope. Skydio itself, if it continues with good products, will take years. But considering Skydio 2 is a really good drone, it will make the company grow fast.

When it comes to pricing, Skydio 2 comes close to the Mavic 2 Zoom when paired with some of the controls, as the drone costs $ 999 and each control $ 150, always tax-free, on average about 10% of the value. purchase.

It is worth mentioning another situation: the whole article is based on technical specifications released by the company and reports from other specialized sites, since we have not tested Skydio 2 – at least not yet. But the criticisms are being very positive and apparently the company has moved to another level with this release.

I also make it clear that as more information circulates, this article will be updated to keep it as recent as possible.

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