Zero Zero Robotics’ Hover Camera is now called the Hover Camera Passport.
I got a first look at the prototype of the paperback-sized “flying camera” (the company’s still not calling it a drone) earlier this year. After securing over $25 million in investor funding, Zero Zero Robotics is finally launching the foldable quadcopter camera — the first in a lineup of planned flying cameras from the company.
At $599, the Hover Camera Passport costs less than GoPro’s upcoming Karma drone (starting at $799) and DJI’s upcoming Mavic Pro ($999) and half that of the DJI’s Phantom 4.
Zero Zero Robotics CEO Meng Qiu “MQ” Wang told Mashable the company was shooting for under $600 for the consumer release. A buck under $600 technically still qualifies, technically.
The Hover Camera Passport that I’ve been playing with for the last day feels solidly built. The carbon-fiber enclosure makes the drone light enough to be exempt from FAA registration and protects the four propellers from injuring anyone.
Included in the box are two batteries, each good for up to 10 minutes of flight time — two minutes longer than the prototype. The company originally planned to ship the device with four batteries for up to 30 minutes of flight time, but it looks like it couldn’t make that possible.
Otherwise the Hover Camera Passport is largely the same flying camera I saw in April. It’s still controlled with an iPhone 5S (or newer) running iOS 8 or higher or Android phone running Android 4.4 or higher via an app and the various control schemes are still really easier to understand and operate.
The Hover Camera Passport can fly at up to 17 miles per hour, climb up to to 16 feet, and has a range of up to 66 feet.
The hardware looks great, especially its foldable design, but what about its ability to follow you and record video and snap photos using advanced computer-vision technology?
To be honest, not bad. The Hover Camera Passport’s face-detection software worked as it did when I tried out the prototype, but it was by no means perfect. The camera had some issues when it detected several faces and wasn’t sure which one to follow, even though I had locked it onto one person’s face.
The Hover Camera Passport also isn’t great at following you up stairs, and reflective surfaces like glass windows seem to confuse it and throw off its tracking. I’ll need to do more testing (and use it outdoors) before I can make conclusions, though.
When I first saw the Hover Camera, it was the first real quadcopter of its kind with a foldable design, but DJI now has the Mavic Pro and it’s also super compact and has virtually all the auto-follow and obstacle-avoidance features the Phanotm 4 has. It costs more, but it’s also more sophisticated.
Will drones like the Mavic Pro kill the Hover Camera Passport before it even gets to impress people? Possibly, but the competition just means all of these kinds of flying cameras are going to get better and better.