Palm-sized Zano drone has selfies in its sights

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The Zano drone might be palm-sized, but it packs impressive functionality

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It seems that the potential of aerial drones knows no bounds. From deploying defibrillators for heart attack victims, observing ailing killer whale populations, to taking selfies when our arms and GoPro poles just won't quite do the job. "Dronies" are a still relatively new phenomenon, but a growing number of early movers are rooting their products in the art of airborne self-portraiture. Zano, from the Wales-based Torquing Group, is a palm-sized drone with an emphasis on portability, designed to be on-hand whenever you need to capture special moments from above.

The Zano drone measure 2.5 x 2.5 in (6.5 x 6.5 cm), which puts it among the smaller nano drones we've come across such as a bug-sized Proto X from Estes. But the team at Torquing says Zano is not just any miniaturized UAV, laying claim to producing the most sophisticated nano drone the world has seen. Outlandish PR speak aside, Zano certainly packs some impressive technology and functionality into its tiny frame.

Onboard Wi-Fi connects Zano to the users iOS or Android device, where the piloting setup is very similar to that of Parrot's Rolling Spider drone. Through the companion app, users control the drone's position using the device's accelerometer, while on-screen sliders dictate orientation and altitude. Alternatively, Free Flight mode allows more precise control through the use of virtual joy sticks.

Like we are seeing in many consumer drones of late, Zano boasts a Follow Me feature, which when activated locks the drone into a certain distance from the user's smart device to capture all the action. A question that often arises from this tracking feature, however, is how the drone might be expected to autonomously navigate the trees, birds and other objects that come into its path. This is where Zano might have a leg up on some competitors, with an infrared sensor that is claimed to already be providing prototypes with adequate obstacle avoidance.

The drone is 55 g (1.94 oz) in weight and the battery can either be charged via Micro USB while inside the drone, or externally through a special adapter. Flight time is said to last between 10 and 15 minutes depending on weather, with a range of 15 to 30 meters (50 to 100 ft). Photos are snapped at 5 megapixels, while video is captured at 720p. The company says this is limited by Wi-Fi bandwidth and the Zano is technically capable of 1080p at 60 fps, leaving the door open to higher resolution video by way of future software updates.

To turns its functioning prototypes into a fleet of flying selfie machines, the Torquing Group is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. Early pledges of £139 (US$219) are available, with shipping slated for June 2015 if all goes as planned.

You can check out the pitch video below.

Source: Fly Zano

UPDATE (Nov. 19/15): According to the BBC, the Torqing Group is now planning on liquidating. It's not known if backers will receive a refund.

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