For those situations where drone pilots need a ‘FPV’ first person view (that means seeing what the drone’s camera sees) while maintaining visual line of sight (VLOS) with a drone , the Brother AiRScouter might just do the trick.
Japanese electronics company Brother is breaking into the drone industry with a headset that’s a mashup of Google Glass and FPV goggles. The AiRScouter is a headset with a screen on one eye that displays exactly what your drone’s camera sees. That leaves your other eye to maintain visual line of sight with the drone.
Smart glasses like the AiRScouter could become the new trend in the drone industry. This year Epson announced a partnership with DJI to create a similar set of smart glasses called the Epson Moverio BT-200 Smart Glasses. Those sell for about $700.
In the box you’ll get the goggles, which pretty much remind me of Google Glass, and are very easy and quick to set up. You can adjust the goggles to go on either eye; you’ll typically want to place the glass over your stronger eye. You’ll also get a control box, which powers the headset and can tuck into a larger pocket.
It is incredibly easy and quick to set up. You connect the control box to any HDMI-enabled drone via your own HDMI cable; both the popular Yuneec Typhoon H and DJI Inspire offer HDMI ports, while the DJI Phantom lineup of drones can give you access to HDMI output if you purchase a $99 HDMI output module.
As soon as you plug it in and power up the control box, you’ll see the display. With the Typhoon H, which I tested, I could see exactly what the display on my controller showed, meaning I could see the drone’s camera view as well as additional information that the controller tells me, such as warnings, battery levels, camera settings and more.
The Brother AiRScouter is a neat product that has incredibly sharp (720p HD) image quality with minimal latency. However the drone user would need to put in a lot of practice with the goggles in order to get the full effect of FPV and VLOS. It requires a lot of focus for your eyes to see both; training one eye to concentrate on something an inch away from your face while the other eye focuses on something hundreds of feet from your face is actually very tricky!
The big question here is whether it’s a “must-have” accessory for any drone pilot. With a drone like the Typhoon H (which I used as part of my personal demo) the screen is already very large and bright, so in some ways it is easy to see what the drone is seeing by taking a glance at the screen.
However, when I’m doing a tricky flight, it is challenging to not only be scanning from side to side at your drone in the air, but also be looking down at the controller. The AiRScouter glasses help add an extra layer of control and safety to your drone flying.
The AiRScouter could perhaps be used by drone racers — the primary adopters of FPV flying — but more likely will be useful in commercial applications like construction, insurance or emergency response, where operates do want to maintain eyes on the drone but also get an easy look at what the camera is seeing It’s particularly relevant in commercial applications since Part 107 rules were announced, in which the Federal Aviation Administration has stated that drones must remain within visual line-of-sight of the drone operator.
Whether the Brother AiRScouter goggles are worth it to you really depends on your use case and flying habits. If looking at the screen on the RC transmitter or smartphone/tablet works for you, then there may be no need to invest in the goggles. But if flying in FPV mode is a must for you, in order to maintain visual line of site, these glasses are the perfect solution.