THE AUTONOMOUS SKYDIO R1 DRONE – THE NEXT LEVEL
Skydio was founded by Adam Bry, Abe Bachrach, and Matt Donahoe, who met as grad students at MIT where they worked on a high-speed autonomous flight project before they started Project Wing at Google. They then moved on to found Skydio to create a fully autonomously flying drone, which is a big step up from obstacle avoidance, and it seems that they have succeeded.

Adam Bry

Adam Bry, CEO and co-founder of Redwood City drone maker Skydio, demonstrates the company’s first model, the R1, in John McLaren Park in San Francisco on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. Photo: Benny Evangelista/The Chronicle

Now, of course, most of us know obstacle-avoidance from DJI’s drones. Even though that system is quite good and has helped save many drones from hitting walls, trees, and whatnot, it is not quite autonomous flight.

DJI raised the bar recently with the introduction of FlightAutonomy 2.0 on the DJI Mavic Air. FlightAutonomy 2.0 uses the primary gimbal camera together with the forward, backward, and downward dual-vision sensors and downward infrared sensing system to create a 3D map of the drone’s surroundings. DJI calls this technology Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems (APAS). And to be honest, when we saw it in action on the Mavic Air during the DJI event we were impressed. When it was my turn to fly, the drone ‘sensed’ the obstacles and flew around and over them, while I kept flying forward in a straight line. Impressive for sure, but this is semi-autonomous flying at best.