As we found out earlier, among drones for photographers and videographers, DJI does not have many competitors. But it seems that one of the most popular models on the market, DJI Mavic 2 Pro, has a new serious rival – Skydio 2. Skydio 2 is an update to the Skydio R1 autonomous drone, which was announced in early 2018. At one time, R1 made a lot of noise, but did not gain wide popularity. Let’s see what the new Skydio 2 has to offer and whether it can push the second Mavic off the pedestal.
The main camera on a 3-axis mechanical gimbal allows you to shoot 10-bit 4K 60 fps HDR video and 12.3-megapixel photos using a 1/2.3″ Sony IMX577 CMOS sensor and an f/2.8 lens.
At the same time, Skydio 2 received six additional 4K cameras (three on the top of the body and three on the bottom), which allow the drone to move autonomously. The flight time on one battery charge is 23 minutes.
The new model is smaller and lighter than the original R1 and features a completely new design. The front propellers are now located under the “arms”, and the rear propellers are above the “arms” of the drone. This design is new to consumer drones, and it is interesting to see how it will affect the flight performance of the device.
The Skydio 2 drone will cost $999 (Mavic 2 Pro starts at $1,500). For an additional fee, a control panel and a joystick transmitter are available. The American company promises to provide free repairs and replacements for lost and damaged drones (as long as you fly in accordance with the company’s safety rules), but whether this offer will extend to regions outside the United States is not yet clear.
Skydio 2 – received a completely new design and bears little resemblance to the original model. The drone has become much smaller – the wingspan diagonally does not exceed the size of a 13-inch laptop, so the novelty fits easily into a regular backpack.
The most notable change was the disappearance of the ring around the hull that held the navigation cameras in the R1. The propellers are now exposed to the outside, and the drone has become more like any modern quadcopter in the style of the same DJI Mavic. At the same time, Skydio 2 does not add up.
As discussed above, the drone’s propellers are specially positioned to provide the best view for the six 45MP color navigation cameras (3 on top and three on the bottom) with a 200-degree field of view.
The solid build of the original R1 felt like a top quality product, so we also expect the highest build quality and materials from a new generation drone.
The battery is located at the bottom of the case. At the same time, judging by the photographs, the drone lies comfortably enough in the hand for manual launch and landing.
The new Skydio 2 has many features and functions that make it stand out from other quadcopters.
First, Skydio 2 makes it easy to use the drone with autonomous flight and automatic obstacle avoidance. The aircraft can keep the camera focused on the operator while flying autonomously while avoiding obstacles at speeds up to 58 km/h (Mavic 2 maximum speed in sport mode is 72 km/h, however this will not be autonomous flight with GPS disabled). It can be expected that the updated drone navigation system and the Skydio Autonomy Engine system will be able to provide even more advanced autonomous flight compared to the R1 (which, it must be said, was already quite impressive).
The Skydio 2 is equipped with a camera that can shoot 4K at 60fps (Mavic 2 Pro shoots 4K at 30fps) in HDR, as well as 12.3-megapixel stills. The aperture of the lens is f/2.8, which corresponds to the Mavic 2 Pro’s widest variable aperture (f/2.8-f/11).
As befits an advanced drone, Skydio 2 has a number of special modes for photo / video shooting, including Dronie, Rocket and Cable Cam.
The quick-change battery allows the drone to stay in the air for up to 23 minutes, which is almost 8 minutes less than the Mavic 2 Pro.
Skydio 2 can be controlled with a smartphone using a Wi-Fi connection with a range of up to 200 meters. When working with a joystick controller, the range increases to 1.5 km, and with a remote control up to 3.5 km. These figures also can hardly be compared with the 8 km distance of the second Mavik. Most likely Skydio 2 can be controlled using the Apple Watch, as it was with the original R1.
Joystick Transmitter/Controller Skydio Beacon. Source: skydio.com
According to Skydio, the new drone will be “the easiest drone on the planet to fly with the least chance of collision.” As mentioned above, the company promises free repair and replacement of the drone in the event of a collision or loss.
“At the heart of Skydio 2 is the NVIDIA Jetson TX2, the fastest and most power efficient AI compute device available on the market. With 256 CPU cores capable of up to 1.3 trillion calculations per second, Skydio 2 is a flying supercomputer.”
In an article on the IEEE Spectrum resource, Skydio director Adam Bry explained the complexity of operating a system of six 4K fisheye cameras with a 200-degree field of view:
“This was a very difficult engineering challenge because we moved from conventional global shutter cameras to rolling shutter fisheye cameras, which are very complex from an algorithmic point of view. However, their big advantage is that at a lower price, we can get much more efficient matrix performance. A simple indicator is that we have gone from 3 megapixels of visual perception on R1 to 45 megapixels on Skydio 2.”
What about the competition with the Mavic 2 Pro? On the one hand, Skydio 2 offers a more advanced (on paper at least) 4K 60fps mode. In addition, autonomous shooting may be of interest to users who do not want to specifically learn how to fly a drone. Autonomous flight is also great for taking selfies of various extreme sports. On the other hand, the novelty is clearly inferior to DJI in terms of such characteristics as flight duration, speed and distance, and in general looks like a more narrowly focused device. However, the price difference of almost $500 can be decisive for many users. To draw final conclusions, you need to see how Skydio 2 will behave in real conditions.
Price and date of sale
The new Skydio 2 will cost $999, while the optional joystick transmitter and remote control will cost $149 each. The drone and accessories will be available in limited quantities starting in November. The start of pre-orders is open on the manufacturer’s website. For current R1 owners, the new model will be available at a discount.
Nothing is yet known about the availability of the drone in Russia.