Mention autonomy in drones and Skydio, not DJI, is the name most will mention first, but since the October 2019 announcement of the Skydio 2 drone customers have looked for more.
Finally, at CES 2022, a revised Skydio 2+ has been announced, with improved 5GHz radio for a range of up to 6km (3.7 miles) and batteries capable of 27 minutes flight time. The key improvements, though, are to the software, most notably the “Skydio KeyFrame” tool. This enables a hybrid of the firm’s well-known subject tracking abilities with a flight path set out using points in three-dimension space.
The Skydio 2+ takes the points defined by the user – the key frames – and establishes a smooth spline between them which it can fly along (repeatedly if necessary). Once the route has a start and end point, the drone can fly along it automatically, speed being tweaked along the way as required; crucially the camera will stay on the subject the whole time.
This provides a distinct alternative to the approach offered by dual operators (or subject tracking systems) in a professional drone like the Inspire, and perhaps we’ll see something like it in DJI’s upcoming ActiveTrack 5.0 (as yet unreleased for the Mavic 3).
For those expecting an all-new airframe or camera, it appears they’ll find themselves waiting a little longer. The new antennas can actually be folded out from the front of the Skydio’s otherwise nearly identical body. The blue and black shell and six autonomy obstacle avoidance cameras are all the same (each is a 4K CMOS, building a 1-million point-per-second 3D world).
In terms of video quality, the retained 1 / 2.3” 12.3MP CMOS has 4056 x 3040 pixels, meaning the drone is far better suited to 4K60 HDR video than capturing high-res stills (though it can capture RAW). The 20mm EFL lens with electronic shutter is the same as the Skydio 2 and video is captured at 100 Mbps to a UHS Class 3 Micro SD.
The improvement to the batteries (5410 mAh v 4280 mAh) hasn’t changed the pin layout, form factor or, significantly, the voltage so you’ll be able to add these to your collection for the original Skydio or vice versa. The Skydio 2 can also take advantage of the new software, leaving only the improved antenna as the key update which can’t be transferred. This is also true of the Beacon which have been physically updated to match the new radio system.
New users coming in at the lowest price point won’t be able to take advantage of the radio improvement straight away though. As with earlier Skydio models the Starter Kit ($1,099 in US) comes with a single battery, albeit the improved one, and charging cable, but the only means of control will be wi-fi from your phone unless you dip into your pocket for either the Beacon, Remote controller or both.
With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones.
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(Image credit: Skydio)