Drones crash. Tossed by the wind, controlled by inexperienced pilots, or just flying at the wrong angle at the wrong time, quadcopters crash into their surroundings. While these crashes aren't a major risk to life and limb, they're certainly an obstacle to better drone use: No one wants to rely on a flying machine that crashes into obstacles. We've seen many proposed drone systems with some form of “sense and avoid” before, most recently DJI's Phantom 4, but none as elegant as the Skydio.
The drone's body itself looks like a roughly assembled prototype, and the production values of the video suggest a raw shot and a roughly edited clip. Many sense and avoid demonstrations are carefully edited to mask a flaw, but this appears to be the real deal. From IEEE Spectrum:
We're usually very skeptical about drones doing amazing things in videos, expecting to see localization systems lurking in the background, or the obvious polish of careful editing and multiple cameras and takes. Skydio's video looks (surprisingly) like they just took their drone out to the woods and recorded it doing its thing. Just to be sure, we asked Skydio's Adam Bry to confirm for us that there are no shenanigans, and there aren't. “All the footage is just taken from our normal testing,” Bry told us. “Nothing was staged and it's all fully autonomous. All of the navigation is done entirely based on a multi-camera array with all computation done onboard on a state of the art mobile CPU.”
Here, watch it artfully move around a tree to follow a person.
The brains behind Skydio include researchers from MIT and Google's Project Wing. Whatever that have, or at least, whatever they're selling appears to be doing quite well in Silicon Valley. They're funded by venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Accel, and are just one of ten companies funded by both firms. The drone, of which there are no close-up pictures, appears to have several identical sensors on its back, and can clearly follow humans as they bike or run. We don't know much about Skydio yet, but we're eager to see what comes next for it.