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Snap: a lightweight and safe 4K drone

What offers a 4K gimbal-stabilized camera, 20-minute flight time and 30 mph top speed in a safe package? Snap, a new portable drone, with just 500 grams.

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Vantage Robotics announced Snap, the first flying camera that anyone can safely and easily use to capture top quality aerial video. Two years in the making, Snap is the culmination of meticulous engineering and design and offers exceptional, gimbal-stabilized image quality in a portable and safe package.

The information available on the new product emphasizes a word: safety. Once you look at the pictures of the drone you start to understand why, and I guess this is what makes Snap different from other packages. The patent pending blade protection and magnetic break-apart design make Snap the first flying camera that can safely be used around people. There is a good reason for that design option: a previous accident with a drone.

Three years ago, Tobin Fisher, CEO and co-founder of Vantage Robotics, cut his hand on a plastic-bladed quadrotor; inspired by his injury, he set out to design flying cameras with the same ease of use as products he helped create at IDEO. He partnered with Joe van Niekerk (co-founder and CTO), a winner of the DARPA Grand Challenge who previously designed ultra high-end gimbals for military drones, and together they built a team of Stanford-trained engineers and designers to create Snap.

“People are the most interesting subjects for any video, so we wanted to make a flying camera that was actually safe to use around them,” says Fisher. “Whether you’re a professional photographer or athlete, or simply looking to capture the moment in a unique way, Snap fits in the smallest backpack and provides beautiful 4K imagery, without weighing you down.”

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Portable, with just 500 grams (1.1lbs) Snap folds to fit easily in any backpack. Vantage Robotics say that Snap requires zero flight skill thanks to its unique auto-tracking modes, canned shots like orbit and out and back, and tilt based flight control from your smart phone. Vantage Robotics worked with professional directors to help define those classic drone shots that often take pilots years to master, so shots like “orbit” or “out and back” are canned into the control system. It’s as easy as select and activate the desired shot in your smartphone control interface to get the drone to execute it.

With dynamic geofence, so the drone does not stray further than you can make it come back, auto ground avoidance, auto return home and an intuitive motion control, Snap is a stable platform to capture aerial video. The drone also tracks automatically the user/pilot, so it can follow you around. Snap uses a combination of GPS and inertial sensors for tracking precision.

When it comes to video the camera in Snap uses a Sony Exmor IMX 377 ½.3” sensor with a 82 degree FOV, fixed focus lens. Video recording modes include 4K, at 4096×2160, at 30fps, FHD 1920×1080 at 30/60 and 120 fps, and HD 1280×720 at 30,60,120 and 240 fps. Besides video, the camera does 12MP still images in single-shot, time-lapse and burst modes. A Micro SD card with 64GB Class 10 or UHS-1 rating is required. It is possible to do video streaming at 720p 30 fps over WiFi.

snap003Android and iOS smartphones or tablets can control the drone, over WiFi, using the free SmartTilt control app. It is also possible to use a DSM controller or Bluetooth game controller in addition to the smartphone. The control range extends to 150 meters with phone over WiFi, 1500 meters with range extender or DSM controller, as far as battery or law allows with auto modes.

The pre-order price for Snap, which is expected to ship in Spring 2016, is $895 USD (limited time, standard retail is $1295 USD). Orders can be placed on the Vantage Robotics website.


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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…
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