High-end Freefly Alta drone flips aerial photography on its head

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Seattle-based Freefly Systems unveiled its new Alta drone at this week's NAB show in Las Vegas

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If you're in the business of making drones for photography, it takes a bit to stand out from the crowd these days. Drone-mounted cameras are only getting better, and the vehicles themselves are only becoming more capable of accommodating higher quality lenses and equipment. Freefly Systems is looking to add another element to the airborne filmmaking mix with a professional-grade UAV that can fly with a camera above its body.

Seattle-based Freefly Systems unveiled its Alta drone at this week's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas, along with some impressive filmmaking gear. The hexacopter comes ready to fly out of the box, with a whopping 15 lb (6.8 kg) payload to tow bulky, high quality shooters such as the 6K Red Dragon, Sony F55 and the Alexa Mini.

While impressive, carrying cutting edge cinematography equipment isn't what really sets the Alta apart from competitors. In addition to toting a camera underneath, the company's MoVI stabilizers can just as easily be mounted to the top to enable shooting from entirely new angles. We'll admit, our first reaction was along the lines of, "why would you need to do that?" But the Alta's promo footage quickly put such skepticism to bed.

With the camera mounted on top, the drone rises from the floor of a forest weaving through towering timber and capturing the treetops from an entirely fresh angle. This little glimpse is enough to see where FreeFly Systems is coming from with this edgy UAV design, and how it hopes to ignite the imaginations of filmmakers with a penchant for pushing the boundaries.

The drone features 18-inch carbon fiber folding propellers and an impressive 15 minute flight time. The company says that the vehicle also has regenerative braking and has built its own controller refined over several years with the help of industry pilots.

Alongside Alta, at NAB FreeFly systems has also launched several pieces of high-end film gear, the most notable of which is Mimic. This is a controller used in conjunction with its MoVI line of stabilizers that allows the camera to be controlled remotely. As the camera operator tracks their subject, Mimic allows a second operator to dictate the tilt, pan and yaw of the camera simply by adjusting the orientation of their own controller. The practicality of this is best demonstrated by the demo video below.

Freefly Alta will be priced at US$8,495 with shipping to kick off in June, while beta versions of Mimic can be picked up for $495 at the end of April.

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