Many people have likely watched aerial video shot by drones, and dreamed of getting such footage with a drone of their own. What they might not realize, however, is that controlling the little UAVs can be difficult, particularly if the user is trying to both fly the drone and keep a subject centered in the frame. That's why a group of entrepreneurs are creating the pre-programmable Ares quadcopter.

To utilize the Ares (not to be confused with the Aries drone), operators start by using an accompanying app to finger-trace the desired flight path on a satellite image of the area. They then stipulate the location of the ground-based subject that they want the onboard camera to shoot, plus they set the altitude at which the drone should fly.

Once that's done, they just press the app's launch button. The Ares then lifts off to the set altitude, uses its GPS to fly along the flight path, and keeps the camera pointed at the subject's coordinates the whole time. This is achieved by tilting the camera via a built-in 2D gimbal mount, and panning it by actually pivoting the drone itself. If no subject is selected, the camera just points ahead.

An Ares drone prototype

Footage is recorded onto an onboard SD card plus it's transmitted by Wi-Fi to the user's mobile device, once the Ares has returned to its take-off point and is in the process of landing.

Users do have the option of flying it manually via a third-party radio remote unit, plus some limited manual control is possible in the app's Emergency Landing mode. Additionally, should they be shooting a moving subject, users can manually control the camera (via the app) while viewing live-streaming video – the Ares would still be following a preset flight path, however, so users would have to know where the subject was heading in advance.

Plans call for the aircraft to be available in three models: the GoPro-ready Ares One, the 1080p/30fps camera-equipped Ares HD, and the 4K/30fps-packin' Ares 4K. A sonar-based collision-avoidance system is also in the works, should users not set the altitude high enough.

The designers are raising production funds on Kickstarter, and have already reached their funding goal. A pledge of US$699 will currently get you an Ares One, with $899 required for an HD and $1,199 for a 4K – assuming all goes according to plans. The estimated retail prices are $999, $1,299 and $1,799, respectively.

More information is available in the pitch video below.

It should be noted, incidentally, that many existing drones are already able to autonomously follow user-defined flight paths. They're not all able to automatically keep their camera trained on the subject, although the aftermarket Shift system does allow DJI and 3D Robotics drones to do so.

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