Watch us test the limits of the Skydio R1, a self-flying drone
This is what we were promised.
A drone that can follow you down a mountain without crashing.
In 2015, the Lily drone raised $34 million on the strength of this video, which shows a guy just throwing it up in the air, and having it follow him down a hill snowboarding.
Thing is it wasn't true, this video wasn't shot with the Lily Drone at all, it turned out.
And the technology wasn't capable of following you like that three years ago.
That was the vision, but the reality has come pretty close.
This is the Skydio R1.
A $2500 drone that can actually follow me around.
So let me show you what that looks like with some footage from the Skydio R1 itself.
This is one of the very first clips I shot with the Skydio.
And it's still a little bit tame to start, but this is still not somewhere I'd generally fly a drone.
There's a lot of trees overhead.
I'm on the sidewalk [LAUGH] where I'm not supposed to be riding anyhow.
And, of course, I'm not controlling the drone at all.
I'm just letting it follow me.
I don't have any way to tell whether it's doing the right thing until I watch the video afterwards.
You might notice I'm giving you a nice long clip here, just to show you that we're not cherry picking the best moments, the Skydio did all of this itself.
And here we go, underneath the arch, god I love this shot, and you get the cherry blossoms in the view and its following me around this apartment complex.
Even though I am dodging through the trees, I'm under the cherry blossoms, have you ever seen a shot like this with a drone before?
It's not something you typically get.
It's not something you typically trust your equipment to do because it might crash into something.
Here was another early test.
I've got the Skydio following me a bit, trying to see how its predictive tracking system works.
It uses the cameras and a bit of software processing to figure out where you might go, so even if you dodge around a tree or something like that, it can figure out where you're likely to be next and follow you.
It's also got the ability to climb up way up high if you like, if you wanna get a different perspective.
Doesn't always have to be right down behind you.
This was a speed test I was trying to [UNKNOWN].
To see if it can catch up with me, if it can follow me when I'm going full speed on the road bike.
There's also a lead mode, which I really like.
So this has got cameras front and back, you can have it fly around in front of you.
You can wave up at the camera Have it capture all kinds of stunts that way.
You might be wondering how this all works.
The Skydio has 13 cameras.
On the top, every corner, and on the bottom, two in each place, so that it can kinda stitch together a map of the world around you.
A three dimensional map where it knows where all the obstacles are.
It's a technology called Slam, and it's similar to something that self-driving cars use right now.
Yes, the foliage.
So I took this to a park nearby my house so I could see how it could handle dense foliage.
And it did pretty well.
I don't know if I like all the blown highlights here.
It definitely had some trouble with the bright sun coming down through the trees.
I'm still trying to capture the dark regions underneath.
But it's pretty great, and this is somewhere I would never, ever fly a drone.
Normally, you trust a drone to come back to you to try up in the sky.
Yes, that's right.
[INAUDIBLE] warns that it can't always dodge little tiny thin branches like that, and I'll show you a bit more of that later.
I don't know if I really like this shot.
I like the blue skies, but it's a little bit dim and gloomy on the ground.
I do like that it's got this program where it can orbit around me and kind of give you that 360 without even trying.
So it's pretty good at not hitting people, which I like But it does still startle them.
I got a lot of weird looks with this drone walking around the street, taking it in places that you wouldn't normally take drones.
And a couple of people gave me the evil eye.
And then I've also got an issue here that this is where I discovered it.
This is the first time I discovered that the drone can't always follow you through all kinds of narrow passageway.
At the Jeep, it couldn't follow me past the Jeep, cuz it was a little bit confused.
And I think, in a second, you're going to see, as it rounds the corner, it's not gonna follow me here either.
It just doesn't know what to do.
The cameras, they look left, they look right, they're like, there's not enough space to get through here.
And it doesn't follow me.
And so you have to come back and get it, so there'll be these times where I couldn't quite trust it to follow me, through all of the things I was doing, If you got a space that's wide open, you don't even have to look at it, you can trust it to do its thing, most of the time.
But if there's an obstacle, if there's anywhere where it's not sure what to do, you might look behind you and realize it's gone.
This is where I really put Just guide you through it's paces.
I found a mountain biker up on that tall Mount Uma Hum, I think it's called up in San Jose.
And I said, go for it.
Let's see if it can follow this guy in this mountain path with all this mountain shrubbery.
And honestly, it did a pretty good job.
It has a little trouble if you go too fast.
The more obstacles in the way, the more chance that it's going to get confused and not be able to follow you after you're going really quickly.
And this is out, okay.
So watch this.
This is where I really got a little bit concerned.
I realized it wasn't quite what I wanted in a drone unit.
This is the biggest limitation of the Of the tracking system so far.
If it does lose you, it might go around and try to find you again.
And then, hit something.
If you're in an area with those thin branches.
Again, it didn't see those thin branches.
Hit the obstacle and that was the end of it.
This is definitely border line For what the tracking system can do.
It was starting to lose track of me there.
It was a little bit shaky as I made that transition from dark to light.
This time it was able to make it cuz it still had a good glimpse of me the entire time.
It was going through, it was able to follow me through the tunnel.
The [UNKNOWN] 's still got a lot of limitations for a $2,500 drone.
It's not something you can just fit into your back pocket, throw up in the air and forget about and it's not exactly a film maker's dream either since it doesn't have dedicated manual controls.
But it is the beginning of the realization of that dream that the Lily Drone made us believe in.
And I wouldn't be surprised if four or five years from now every drone has these features.
Every drone could theoretically follow you around.