Security cameras that let you check in on your home using your phone are common enough these days, but how many of them can fly? Billed as a smarter home monitoring system, Aire is an aerial robot that can be engaged remotely to provide a livestream inside the house, featuring a soft fabric exterior to avoid injuries to anybody that happens to be nearby.
The idea of using a remote-controlled flying camera to peer around the home when you're out and about sure isn't a bad one. But anybody who has flown a drone indoors will know that avoiding collisions with walls, ceilings and furniture is tricky enough when you've got the thing in your sights, let alone trying to fly it remotely using only the camera's field of view as a guide.
Using this approach, a device called the Rook drone raised almost US$60,000 on Indiegogo last year, suggesting that people are at least willing to give it a whirl (although production did break down thereafter). The Aire, however, does boast a few handy features that the Rook did not.
Armed with four sonar sensors and a 3D depth camera, the Aire from robotics startup Aevena is claimed to detect and avoid obstacles in every direction. To begin with, the drone will be primarily controlled over Wi-Fi through a smartphone app in first-person-view mode, but the company tells us that autonomous flight modes will become available via over-the-air updates down the track.
"There is some level of autonomy for things like taking off, auto-docking and avoiding obstacles," Aevena CEO Jeffrey Tseng tells New Atlas. "We also have a mode that allows it to take pictures using voice control to demonstrate some basic autonomy. In the future, we're going to be adding features and functionality using over-the-air updates that will enable higher levels of autonomy, like Teslas, so it can do things like patrol the house on its own. The hardware is there to add more capability, so you won't need to purchase a new device to get more capability."
The hardware onboard includes a 3D camera and a 4K camera with night vision, along with IMU sensors, NVIDIA Tegra supercomputer processor and an ARM-based Flight Controller. Tseng says the drone will be capable of some autonomous functions straight out of the box, like automatically launching from a charging dock, avoiding obstacles and then self-docking again when running low on juice. Flight time from the 2,000 mAh Li-Po battery is reported to be 8 minutes.
The voice control he refers to means support for Alexa, in that it can be controlled via voice commands like "Alexa, ask Aire to go into camera mode," and "Alexa, ask Aire to come here and take a photo." This would see the robot take flight, search for a face and then snap a photo.
The cylindrical drone weighs 3 lb (1.3 kg) and measures 14 inches tall (35 cm) and 12 inches thick (30 cm). Aevena, has launched a Kickstarter campaign today to finance production. Early pledges of US$699 are available, with shipping slated for November 2018 if all goes to plan. You can check out the pitch video below.