As most of you know, DJI pretty much dominates the drone market. Forbes stated earlier this year that “DJI has soared to take two-thirds of the drone market globally.”
If the Skydio 2 is really capable of what they claim, and the videos showing those capabilities look to support that, we may finally have a made in the USA drone that can give DJI some competition.
Why I’m personally excited about this, is that I’ve been flying a DJI Inspire 2 for more than two years. In that time I have had a lot of problems with the drone. Things like firmware updates not working, taking two years to fix a gimbal problem on a $1,600 camera/gimbal, warranty repair issues as well as problems with the flight restrictions that DJI decided to impose, even on FAA certified Part 107 licensed pilots.
I’ve been on jobs where I’ve gotten FAA approval to fly and when I get there, DJI restricts me. Often there were workarounds, but often it has taken a couple of hours to get the restriction lifted. So that being said, I’d love to see some serious competition to DJI drones so I could buy one and use it for my projects instead. Maybe this is one of them!
Currently, there is nothing that DJI sells that has the obstacle avoidance/navigation/autonomous flight abilities of the Skydio 2. Even as a practiced and experienced drone pilot flying many and varied projects, the examples you’ll see in the videos below can be very difficult and potentially hazardous for your drone. On one project I missed seeing a tree branch, even after walking the site first, hit it and it cost me $2,000 damage to my Inspire 2 drone.
It would appear that the Skydio 2 drone has a significant ability to navigate/avoid complex obstacles like tree branches and other complex objects at a level that DJI drones don’t have. According to Skydio:
“[The Skydio 2 has] 45 megapixels of visual sensing from six 200 degree color cameras, Skydio 2 can see everything in every direction with unprecedented resolution and clarity. This is the foundation of trustworthy autonomous flight.”
Compare this with 4.9 megapixels for the Mavic Pro.
Check out this video to see how it navigates through obstacles. It’s pretty impressive.
Skydio 2 vs. DJI Mavic Pro
So how does DJI stack up? Check out this video from Skydio’s website on how the DJI Mavic 2 stacks up against the Skydio 2. As I stated above, 45 megapixels of visual sensing from six 200-degree color cameras versus 4.9 megapixels for the Mavic Pro. It’s a big difference. Check out how the Skydio 2 is able to navigate autonomously in an area that stops the Mavic Pro cold.
What about tracking me?
For those of you who are one-person crews or want videos of you on your mountain bike, hiking, surfing or skiing, Skydio has a Skydio Beacon to track you autonomously. You use this to control the drone’s height and position as it tracks you as well as other functions. Here’s a video from their site that shows how well it works.
Does it have a controller?
Finally for me, having the ability to fly with a controller is really important. Then you add the level of obstacle avoidance and navigation to that and you got a real winner. Check out this video from their website on how it works with their controller.
What about the camera?
The camera specs in the Skydio 2 are a little disappointing. It uses a 1-2.3” 12.3 megapixel CMOS, compared to a 1″ sensor on the Mavic Pro 2. But the new sensor, and the processors it uses, make it capable of 4K video at up to 60fps. Plus it has HDR, and they claim for it to have 13 stops of dynamic range.
If you’re wondering what the HDR looks like here is a sample for their website. Notice the grassy area and sky are not blown out in the HDR version.
Again, I’ll need hands-on experience to see how capable the camera is for my needs, but it looks promising. In addition, the camera produces 12 megapixel HDR photos. So my verdict is still out on this.
For YouTube videos, it should be fine, but I’ll need hands-on to edit and grade real footage to know what other projects I can use it on. The level of obstacle avoidance/navigation should allow pilots to produce footage that would be difficult to impossible to produce with just manual flight. This could be a game-changer for many people and small productions.
The Skydio 2 has an all-new camera that uses Sony’s IMX577 sensor and the Qualcomm RedDragon QCS605.
Does Skydio stand behind their technology?
Here’s the warranty from their website:
“Skydio 2 is the easiest to fly, least likely to crash drone on the planet and we’re proud to be building it right here in America. Our customer support team sits in the same building with the engineering team that designed the product. We manufacture and repair Skydio 2 across the street. If you have any issue, we’re here to help. And we stand behind Skydio 2 with a simple promise: if you’re operating your Skydio 2 within our Safe Flight guidelines, and it crashes, we’ll repair or replace it for free. It’s that simple.”
I’m really hopeful that this drone can really do all it claims (since I haven’t flown one yet). I would really like to see DJI get some competition and maybe have U.S. drone manufacturers take a lead in innovation in this field. If it is capable of what it claims then this will be a drone worth buying.
Its ability to navigate around obstacles when being flow with a controller will reduce the change of crashes and the autonomous flying modes will give users the ability to create footage that currently is very difficult or impossible right now.