Electric aircraft-maker Yuneec made a bit of a splash when it landed at CES earlier this year with its Typhoon H hexacopter. With folding landing gear and a swivelling 4K camera, the drone was impressive enough, but what really created a buzz was the demonstration of an advanced model with the impressive ability to steer clear of obstacles. Developed by Intel, this sense-and-avoid technology is now coming out to play, with Yuneec making its tree-dodging Typhoon H Pro available for preorder.
Drones have quickly become a valuable tool for film-makers and photographers looking to gain fresh perspectives on their subjects, but mastering the joysticks and avoiding meetings between the expensive gear and telephone poles isn't as easy as it might appear. Obstacle avoidance technology has promised to ease this burden somewhat, and we have seen it pop up on some consumer models like the Phantom 4, but a comprehensive, all-seeing solution for the drone hobbyist is yet to really take hold.
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Yuneec claims that the Intel RealSense Technology onboard the Typhoon H Pro is a big improvement on some earlier obstacle avoidance solutions that use sonic sensors (part of the Phantom's approach) to gauge the distance to an object. It uses an Intel RealSense R200 Camera and a quad-core Intel Atom processor that combine with the drone's flight control firmware, cameras and sensors to model a 3D environment.
This allows the drone to recognize each obstacle and choose an alternative route on the fly. And when it picks out an obstacle once, the drone will remember its location and remember to give it a wide berth next time.
The six-rotor drone itself boast an impressive list of specs, with a 4-lb (1.8-kg) carbon fiber frame and retractable landing gear like DJI's Inspire 1, so the 4K camera can be left to shoot unobstructed video and 12-megapixel stills in all directions. It also comes with a host of autonomous flight modes that seem to come standard on most high-end consumer models these days, including circling a point of interest, cable cam, geo-fencing and return-home.
Yuneec has priced the Typhoon H Pro at US$1,899 and says shipments will kick off in about four weeks. If you've just forked out $1,799 on the original Typhoon H and are reading this through clenched teeth, then worry not. Yuneec says a separate Intel RealSense module that can be fitted to the drone will be released in the near future (though no word yet on pricing).
You can check out the promo video below.