It was just this June that we heard about the HEXO+ and AirDog drones, which were two of the first consumer multicopters to offer a Follow function – that's the ability to track the location of their user, and fly along above them. Since then, models including the Iris+ and Zano have come out with the same feature. Now, Chinese/American company Ehang is successfully raising production funds for its Follow-equipped GoPro-toting Ghost Drone. Developed in partnership with Duke University, not only is the quadcopter able to track and film its user, but it's also reportedly easier to fly than its competitors.
That claimed ease-of-use comes courtesy of a smartphone-based iOS/Android control system, which Ehang tells us is more user-friendly than the control app used by the popular AR.Drone.
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By pressing onscreen buttons, users can cause the GPS-equipped Ghost to automatically take off, land, fly to and from selected waypoints, or hover in place. It can additionally be set to Follow, of course, in which it homes in on the user's smartphone signal. As with the other user-following drones, however, it cannot sense and avoid obstacles while doing so.
The copter's movements can also be manually controlled, using onscreen sliders – if users have opted for the optional gimbal mount, they can additionally pan and tilt their GoPro. It looks like using those controls could be rather fiddly, however, which is why it's fortunate that the control app also offers a Tilt function. This allows users to steer the drone simply by tilting their phone in different directions, as is demonstrated in the video below.
The drone itself is powered by an 11.1-volt 5,400-mAh lithium-polymer battery, which should allow up to 30 minutes of flight time without the gimbal and camera, or about 20 with them attached. An included compact "G-Box" communicates with the phone by Bluetooth, and then proceeds to relay commands to the aircraft via radio signals up to a distance of 1,000 meters (3,280 ft).
As with various other drones, if it loses contact, it will automatically return to its take-off point. Additionally, if users would prefer to use a more traditional radio remote control unit with physical joysticks, a Ghost-specific one is currently in development.
Ehang is currently raising production funds on Indiegogo, and has exceeded its goal. Additionally, it was announced yesterday that the company has received US$10 million in funding from two Chinese investors.
Pledges are still being accepted, though, with US$375 getting you a basic gimbal- and GoPro-less Ghost – units are already being shipped to backers. A pledge of $599 is required to get one with a gimbal included, while a package including drone, gimbal and GoPro Hero 4 Silver edition can be had for $879.
More information is available in the following pitch video.