In the drone photography world, names like Parrot and DJI (maker of the Phantom series) are the closest things to a gold standard at the moment. However, a Latvian startup is promising to deliver a smartphone-controlled, lightweight carbon fiber drone that improves on battery life by as much as 40 percent.
The Atlas Erida Gen. B also competes with more automated newcomers like the Lily, which automatically starts up when a user simply hurls it in the air, and the AirDog that follows and films a user. The Erida follows an automated start-up process that requires no precarious tossing. Instead, it simply starts hovering, performs a self-check and then waits for its pilot to choose from one of seven basic flight modes via a connected mobile app.
Using an on-board GoPro or other compatible action camera, the Erida's pre-set modes include staying focused on the user and shooting you while circling above, holding a hovering position while continuing to focus on a subject, and manually programming a viewpoint by setting a height and distance from the subject. You can map out a flight plan for the Erida, selecting which modes it will use along the way, and also take control of the drone using on-screen virtual joysticks and your connected device's accelerometer.
What sets Erida apart from the growing batch of drones designed with aerial photographers and novice pilots in mind are a few key specs, most notably its weight. At only 0.9 kg (2 lb), it is roughly half as heavy as the AirDog, thanks to its carbon fiber construction and the fact that Erida is a tricopter rather than a quadcopter like most of its competitors.
Being lighter also allows the Erida to claim up to 35 minutes of flight time off each battery charge cycle, whereas most other photography-minded drones struggle to exceed 20-25 minutes per charge.
Open-source software, swappable batteries (seen above) and an optional long-range module that allows for the drone to stay in touch up to 1.5 km (0.93 miles) away (standard model range is 300 meters) are also claimed advantages that help sell Erida as the user-friendliest of the photo drones.
Now comes the all-important healthy note of skepticism, however, that we would be remiss to omit for any product that so far only exists in an early prototype form and on a slick Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign page. While the concept sounds great and the prototype (that's the Atlas Erida Gen. A, which is what is actually shown in the promotional videos) appears to work pretty well in this short video, there are still potential pitfalls in the final stages of development and mass production to be overcome or avoided.
Should all go as planned for the Atlas Erida, manufacturing will begin in March 2016, with backers receiving the drones starting in June.
While the Erida Gen.B is planned to sell at an eventual retail price of "above $1,100," Indiegogo backers can reserve one for as little as US$499, including free worldwide shipping and a rechargeable battery. There's a dizzying array of other support levels you can come in at that will earn you extra accessories like a hard-shell case, GoPro camera and more.
The Indiegogo campaign has been live for 12 days as of this writing and has so far raised just shy of 10 percent of its $85,000 fixed funding goal, which means that if that minimum amount isn't raised, the company gets none of the money pledged. Fortunately, there's still 49 days left in the campaign.
See more in the pitch video below.