Bay Area-based drone company made a huge splash last year after releasing their ultra-smart, Skydio R1 drone. With 13 cameras surrounding it on all sides, the drone could see and avoid obstacles on all sides, giving it the ability to lock its sensors on a human subject and track them — even if they were walking through dense areas.
Then the company fell off the radar. But it’s seeping back into the limelight after news came out that a new Skydio product would launch this fall.
Earlier this summer, Skydio updated their website with minimal information, but the information it did give was spicy. “If you’re thinking of buying a drone, wait,” their website states.
Skydio also sent out the following statement to customers:
Last year Skydio launched a drone called R1. It completely blew people’s minds. Now, we’re about to launch something even more spectacular. It’s the next chapter in fully autonomous flight, and when it arrives, you’ll be the first to know. It’s the culmination of everything we’ve learned from our first drone and all of the feedback we’ve received from our first customers. We’ve listened closely and worked tirelessly to build something that truly redefines what a drone can do, opening up new possibilities in aerial video. Here at Skydio we’re all about awesome autonomous drones and are super excited to have you along on this incredible journey to push the boundaries of aerial autonomy.
Skydio is already referring to their drone as the Skydio 2 in marketing materials.
Expect an improve camera and autonomous flight modes
Skydio this week also dropped some test footage (below) from their Skydio 2, adding that the team developed a new flight algorithm that can “do so much more than just avoid crashing.”
“Now it can determine exactly where and how to fly to get the most stunning cinematic shots possible,” according to a note attached with the new video. “The type of shots that until now only expert pilots were capable of capturing.”
See footage from the new Skydio 2 here:
Can I still buy a Skydio R1?
Skydio built a fixed number of R1 drones, and Skydio spokesperson Kyle Russell said the company sold through their entire volume of drones internally and across retail partners (which included retail giants Apple and Amazon).
“Rather than spin up another, smaller batch of R1, we’re focusing our efforts on successfully bringing its successor to market,” he said.
Getting your hands on a Skydio R1 is going to be tough, unless you’re good at hunting through eBay. Skydio took down their store page selling the R1 from their website in mid-June after their inventory ran out. Apple and Amazon also removed the Skydio R1 from their websites after their inventories ran out, also in mid-June.
Was Skydio R1 a success?
It’s hard to say. It was certainly beloved by media. TechCrunch called it “mesmerizing.” The New York Times (in an article quoting The Drone Girl) called it “the closest thing to a fully autonomous drone you can buy today.”
It truly was autonomous. You simply set it to take off, and the drone flew — no hands required. In fact, the Skydio R1 didn’t even come with an RC transmitter (though for people who still want joysticks of sorts, they could be used via the app). Within the app, owners could set different modes for what the camera captures, such as a 360 capture, following you or flying in front of you.
Unlike other “follow-me” drones such as the one from Airdog, which can’t exactly guarantee they won’t crash and operate primarily based on GPS, the R1 can even detect moving people thanks to the more than a dozen navigational cameras onboard.
But reviewers also called out limited photography capabilities, which is generally the appeal for consumer and recreational drone owners. The high price point (initially $2,499) also raised eyebrows, considering it was about 3x the cost of many of DJI’s consumer-focused drones.
The Skydio is not ubiquitous compared to something like the DJI Phantom or Mavic, but perhaps that’s not the point. Skydio would not reveal how many Skydio R1 units were sold. But they did sell out the entire volume from their initial manufacturing plan which is invariably a success — sparing Skydio R1 a spot from the clearance bin, and the fate that happened to failed drones like the 3DR Solo drone.
Skydio is backed by IVP, Playground Global, NVIDIA, Accel and Andreessen Horowitz. It also stands out for being one of the few American drone companies making consumer-focused, camera drones.
Do you know anyone who bought the Skydio R1, or did you buy one yourself? Leave a comment below!