Hexo+: Your Own Flying Pet Video Camera
Andy Warhol once predicted that, in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. That prophecy may be coming true -- in a sideways fashion -- thanks to an autonomous drone camera designed to follow and film you in 15-minute stretches.
The Hexo+, currently in the crowdfunding stage, is a lightweight camera drone that locks onto your image, then automatically follows you at a set distance and angle. Startup Squadrone System, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is aiming the device at the action sports market -- surfers, skaters, snowboarders. But the slickly-produced promo video suggests that the Hexo+ could have a much broader impact.
That's because the drone system doesn't require any remote operator at all, either for the camera or the copter rig itself. Instead, you use your smartphone to initially "frame" yourself within the camera's POV. By way of GPS, image recognition software and various algorithms, the drone then follows you automatically, at speeds of up to 45 m.p.h. -- recording video all the while.
The Hexo+ employs six vertical rotors with a maximum 30-degree tilt to manage the forward motion. The underslung gimbal is designed to lock in with commercial high-def cameras like the GoPro. Battery life so far, in the prototype model, maxes at about 15 minutes.
The Hexo+ project page features footage of extreme sports athletes, along with video of the drone following people in parks and public spaces -- joggers, skateboarders, even a guy walking his dog. It raises the question: What are the safety issues if everyone is being followed by their own personal camera drones?
Antoine Level, CEO of Squadrone System, told DNews that there is no obstacle avoidance system in the Hexo+, although there are plans to incorporate the technology. "It's basically up to you to make sure that you're in an open area, similar to if you were driving a car with a trailer behind you," Level said.
The inspiration for the Hexo+ comes from the action sports world, where filming extreme stunts in the snow or surf can be difficult and expensive, requiring film crews, helicopters or remotely piloted drone systems.
"We really needed something light and packable that was working everywhere, all the time," said Xavier De Le Rue, Squadrone System founder, on the Hexo+ project page. "We spoke to other athletes and filmmakers, and we quickly realized that such a system didn't exist. Basically the only solution was to innovate."
Backers of the Kickstarter campaign can sign up for bargain prices on the Hexo+ once it becomes available -- the company is aiming for a May 2015 release date. Prices range from a $299 DIY kit to a $999 deluxe edition. The project seems to have some momentum, to put it mildly: The initial initial $50,000 Kickstarter fundraising goal has been buried with more than $950,000 in pledges so far. To quote my snowboarding pal Jim: "Whoa."
Check out the Hexo+ video here: