Last year, I was able to play with one of the most amazing gadgets I've ever touched: an unmanned plane that flies alone, an unmanned plane that could follow me through a park without crashing into the trees, an unmanned aircraft I could draw the world map using 12 different cameras and predict where I would go. That drone was the $ 2,500 Skydio R1. But that polished prototype was more a sales pitch than a product. In the best case, I thought, I would convince DJI or Amazon to buy this small startup and integrate it into their drones. He convinced me that autonomous drones were the future, but I assumed that future was years away.
But Skydio says that the future will come as soon as next month – with the new Skydio 2.
In almost every way, the Skydio 2 is the drone with which he wishes he had played last year. The original was large enough not to fit in a normal backpack; The new drone is 50 percent smaller, 50 percent lighter, 50 percent quieter and, at 23 minutes, it also has 43 percent more battery life. With a dubious camera and no remote control, the original Skydio R1 was a single trick pony who couldn't fly and take great photos and videos like an average DJI. But the new Skydio 2 not only has a lot of Sony 4K cameras for better navigation, photos and video, but also has two different optional remote controls to choose from that allow you to fly several kilometers instead of Be tied to your phone.
You can fly the drone with a game of joysticks in good faith this time at up to 36 miles per hour, with Skydio's second generation autonomy engine that promises to prevent the drone from crashing into anything while doing it.
Skydio says it is the first drone that is safe enough to give the driver to my three-year-old son, and is willing to back that promise with a guarantee: if he manages to crash it while flying inside the flight Company insurance guidelines (not at night, not in rain or fog or high winds, etc.), will repair or replace your drone for free.
Then there is the price: at $ 999 without a controller, the Skydio 2 is less than half the cost of the original and more than competitive with DJI's prosper Mavic drones, particularly now that Trump's rates are in effect. In summary, Skydio no longer presents a proof of productive concept; This could be the first drone you want to buy.
In a slightly suffocating conference room on the second floor of Skydio's offices in Redwood City, California, co-founder Adam Bry tells Verge that the construction of a consumer drone was the Plan all the time. "We think of R1 as the Tesla Roadster of autonomous drones," says Bry, referring to how the automaker Tesla began building a limited series of 2,500 electric sports cars to prove his ambition, years before launching the Model S in 2012. Bry It won't say how many original Skydio R1 your company sold for 80 employees, but it could be equally small. As it shows us, all Skydio drones are assembled by hand and also tested in Redwood City.
Skydio's polished lobby and conference room are simply a facade: when Bry opens a door across the hall, we enter a two-story hacker workspace filled with parts of Skydio in one stage or Another test. In one area, a handful of blinking drones spin their cameras wildly, finding the limits of their new three-axis gimbal. In another area there are rows of cheap Ikea motorized standing desks, many of them with giant televisions (they are more profitable than monitors, Bry explains) to help the company's artificial intelligence encoders see.
In one corner, there is a set of accelerated test chambers to see if drones can survive extreme heat or cold. And that is just the office; A few doors down the street is the true "factory" of Skydio, a miniature computerized assembly line with six drone construction stations and an automated test glove, including an industrial robot arm that balances a Skydio 2 no propeller at various angles to prove that their cameras work and closet-sized rooms where drones go through real and simulated flight experiences. "We test all the drones that go out," says Bry. "We want to guarantee high quality."
It is there that we see how more realistic Skydio 2 has become as a product due to the smaller number of steps needed to build it. Before, the company had to weld dozens of circuits connected to a large three-layer motherboard (according to drone standards) with its own heatsink and fan. That is one of the reasons why the Skydio R1 frame was so large.
Now, Bry proudly holds a single layer plate with all the chips on one side and explains how the Skydio 2 blue magnesium alloy frame acts as a heat sink to cool them all at once. The Skydio 2 also only needs six navigation cameras now instead of 12; With its 4K color sensors and a 200-degree field of view, the new drone captures much more visual information (45 megapixels, compared to 3 megapixels) that no longer requires camera-loaded propeller protectors. It still does not fold like a Mavic: Skydio says that the arms must be rigid so that the cameras can accurately guide the ship, but from the hidden gimbal of the three-axis camera to the satisfactory magnetic click of the battery that also works. landing gear, looks like an elegant design.
An hour later, in a nearby park, I am flying the Skydio 2 for the first time, rather, the drone is flying with me as a co-pilot. I am using the new remote control, but it is clear who is in charge: every time I send the Skydio 2 to a group of trees, the ship moves away quickly. I try again and again to crash it, throwing it into the tops of the nearby trees where, I hope, the small twigs that could have defeated the original Skydio R1 could send it to its destination. (In fact, I crashed a Skydio R1 that way once.) Unlucky. Skydio 2 dives below and finds a path. That is the tremendous difference between Skydio and, for example, DJI's obstacle avoidance: when you fly a Mavic towards an obstacle, it usually stops.
As amazed as I am, I'm not sure I really like the feeling of the controller. On the one hand, Skydio does not hide that it is a renowned Parrot Anafi pad, which feels a bit cheap and hollow compared to the rest of the drone, despite the $ 150 price of the controller. Skydio's autonomy also seemed a bit enthusiastic in my initial test, preventing me from threading the needle between trees that I would not have had trouble crossing with any other drone. It is not clear if it will be like this at launch, but you cannot deactivate autonomy even if you are trained. Bry says safety is the priority and, apart from some potential industrial customers who can activate an "aggressive mode" to squeeze the Skydio into smaller spaces, it is designed to keep a protective bubble of one meter around it at all times.  The Skydio Beacon.
But when I finish an electric scooter ride with the $ 150 Beacon remote control from Skydio in my pocket, a huge smile illuminates my face.
The Beacon is a pill-shaped remote control that helps Skydio 2 do what it does best: take care of its business while a flying camera follows each of its movements. It has an ingenious air rod function that uses 3-axis motion sensors so you can move in the direction you want the Skydio 2 to go. It has more buttons to quickly activate a selfie or activate different modes without using your phone. But the best part is a built-in GPS locator so that the Skydio can find it even if its cameras lose sight of it for a while. That was a problem with the Skydio R1, but I could actually test it during my brief demonstration.
When I managed to leave the Skydio 2 stranded behind a wire fence, he was able to find the exit and reach me after I had already moved away from my scooter. With a range of 1.5 kilometers, Bry says that the beacon is capable enough for the Skydio to do things like filming through a long tunnel and exit on the other side.
There are many things we couldn't try in an hour in a park, of course, and I wonder if Skydio can really meet the $ 1,000 demand practically shockproof. Drone if it keeps all the promises we hear during our tour. For example, the company claims that its new 12.3-megapixel 1 / 2.3-inch Sony camera with a 20mm equivalent f / 2.8 lens can capture 100 Mbps 4K images that are as good or better than the competition. That will require many more tests to prove it. However, you can watch our video to see some unedited sample clips.
For now, the first users will have to choose whether to wait for revisions or reserve a place in line. The company expects the quantities to be limited, and will have to leave some money. Skydio will accept advance orders starting today, October 1, for a $ 100 deposit, and the drones will ship in November at the earliest.
I always wait for criticism, in principle, but this time I am very tempted.