In the young adult novel Extras, everyone in the city of Yokohama is followed by their own personal floating cameras. Their goal is to produce the top viewed video on the city's local Internet of sorts. Yes, it's to be the most popular! Although the protagonist seeks to be the least popular, I loved the idea of a drone that followed them around nonetheless. I never thought it could be real anytime soon. But it looks like just it might be ...
Helico Aerospace Industries' AirDog, a
quadcopter specifically designed with extreme athletes and filmmakers in mind, successfully launched its Kickstarter campaign and will be coming to an extreme sporting convention near you at $1,500 a pop.
AirDog is a small, foldable quadcopter that follows users everywhere they go and records their every move with a GoPro camera. The drone was intended for persons who already use a GoPro camera, but want footage of themselves in action -- ideal for extreme sport enthusiasts or filmmakers.
AirDog is pretty spectacular. For starters, it features a gimbal that always faces the camera toward the user. Users can decide if they want the camera to face them and at what angle. It also features a gyroscope that promises stable footage.
The drone follows users by relying upon a signal it receives from the AirLeash, a remote that emits long-range Bluetooth signals. Users can strap the AirLeash to any part of the body that allows the interface to point toward the sky, such as a helmet, a backpack, the wrist, or sporting equipment. The AirLeash tells the AirDog the location of the user and in which direction to point the camera. If you want to be fancy, unlock advanced film preferences via the AirDog App.
The AirDog App allows users to program the drone. Using the app, users can program their drones to fly at certain heights and even alternate during flight. (Who doesn't want 360-degree footage while base jumping?) Users can also upload and share footage with friends, or the AirDog app community. It will be available for Android and iOS.
Both the AirDog and the AirLeash are waterproof, and Helico encourages users to take them out for a swim. The devices can also allegedly withstand freezing temperatures, heavy rain, and snow. It's even said to be able to maintain its stability and trajectory in the face of a gnarly wave.
The idea behind AirDog is to give people the ability to have the effect of a helicopter crew and filmmaker, on a budget. Extreme athletes that engage in everything from motocross to free solo climbing can now have a full-time film crew following their every move. Not only is this badass in and of itself, but it also gives athletes a third-person view of their techniques and of what to improve upon before the next run.
The making of AirDog was a joint effort between Helico and Stratasys. AirDog began as a silicon-molded design, but regardless of how "lightweight" it was, it couldn't get off of the ground. Once Helico decided to consider 3D printing its design, the rest was history.
Helico went to Stratasys to see if it could design a prototype that would not only fly, but would do so with the stability and precision required to make quality films. Stratasys worked its magic. The result is a pretty nifty drone that can be manufactured on-demand.
Airdog launched its Kickstarter fund in mid-June, looking to raise $200,000. With 22 days left in the campaign, the drone is more than fully funded at $746,322 as of July 9, 2014. Early birds snagged AirDog at $995, $500 below expected the retail price.
The AirDog does not come equipped with the GoPro cam. Helico expects that most extreme sport enthusiasts already have their own, along with a slew of first-person footage of their extreme adventures.
Helico is on tour this month to increase excitement about the AirDog drone. If all goes according to plan, backers will receive their compact companion as early as November 2014. Let the games begin.
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