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Ambarella CES announcements provide clues of what 2018’s drones will look like

This is an excerpt of a piece originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire piece here.

Ambarella’s booth at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada isn’t as sexy as DJI’s glass tunnel with Mavic’s flying through it, but it’s one of the most important booths at providing a clue as to what next year‘s drones will look like.

The image processing company announced two new chips for drone cameras, as well as a drone racing-related upgrade to an existing chip.

Gimbal-less drones?

Ambarella announced the H22 chip for cameras in drones, which films in 4K HD video and — in an important upgrade — includes electronic image stabilization, removing the need for gimbals. Gimbals are the pivoted camera mounts that eliminate jittery or sudden movements in a drone — but also add weight to drones, take up space and reduce flight time. 

8K video in drones

Ambarella also announced the H3 chip, geared at high-end drones that allow 8K Ultra HD video at 30 frames per second. 8K is becoming a trend across the board at CES this year. LG and Samsung were among the companies to preview 8K televisions, which are 16 times the resolution of HD, at the conference this year. Currently, there are not many cameras with chips that can film in 8K — and thus very little content produced at 8K — leaving critics wondering why someone would buy an 8K TV in the first place. Ambarella’s new H3 chip indicates that, within the next year or so, there are likely to be some higher-end drones coming to market with the capacity to film in 8K.

Drone racing

Ambarella also announced an upgrade to its chips for racing drones, improving video resolution. Currently, most video filmed by racing drones is fairly low resolution, since video transmission speed takes precedence over quality — even a split-second delay in the video feed could mean a crash for the drone pilot. Ambarella’s chip upgrade is intended to help narrow the gap in that trade-off.

Ambarella VP of Marketing and Business Development Chris Day said that it typically takes about a year after Ambarella’s product announcements for the new features to be incorporated into drones.

Day said that Ambarella supplied chips for more than 2 million drones in the past year, including in drones from DJI, Yuneec and Autel.

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