Editor’s note for August 2023: Unfortunately for folks seeking an excellent, American-made camera drone, we lost what was very much the best option. Skydio announced in August 2023 that it would sunset its consumer camera drone business to focus solely on enterprise and industrial drones. While you might have some success of buying a used Skydio 2 drone, just beware of the risks of buying used drones.
If you’re interested in learning more about other great camera drones available on the market today, check out my guide to the best camera drones.
Skydio finally revealed the Skydio 2 in October 2019, an upgrade to its original Skydio drone, but with a lower price point.
The original Skydio R1 drone shocked crowds with its ultra-smart sensor capability, able to fly autonomously through complex environments thanks to sensors on all sides of the drone. But perhaps its biggest downfall was its high price point; it initially launched at $2,499. The steep price tag raised eyebrows among customers who had a tough time comparing it to DJI’s drones, many of which cost 1/3 of the price.
But now, Skydio is fixing that with an improved drone, at a much smaller price point. The new Skydio 2 is just $999.
Another big change between the Skydio 2 and the R1, this version adds a controller, bringing joysticks to people who find joy in flying their drones RC style. Additionally, this model further targets action sports enthusiasts with a new accessory called the Skdio Beacon, a sort of wand that the drone is able to track (rather than track a person via its cameras). That want is useful if the drone needs to fly in places it can’t see you, like over a patch of trees, augmenting visual tracking with GPS.
The drone is adorned with six 4k navigation cameras, comprised of 45 megapixels of visual sensing from six 200 degree color cameras. That allows the drone to see everything in high resolution, which Skydio says “is the foundation of trustworthy autonomous flight.” Consumer drones on the market today are adding sensors so they can detect objects around them, but it is typically limited to one or two in the front and/or back.
There’s a lot of smart technology powering the Skydio 2. The drone is powered by the NVIDIA Jetson TX2, a fast, power-efficient embedded AI computing device with 256 GPU cores capable of 1.3 trillion operations a second.
The drone can fly for up to 23 minutes and is small enough to fit anywhere you can carry a 13” laptop.
Read my full review of the Skydio 2 here.
The dronemaker is one of just a few remaining American manufacturers designing and building drones. Skydio is based in Redwood City, California, part of the state’s Silicon Valley. Many others, like 3DRobotics and GoPro, have stopped making drones, primarily citing too much competition from Chinese drone manufacturer DJI.
Skydio also looks to be ramping up its customer service efforts (something Skydio’s top competitor, DJI, has oft been criticized for) by promising that they’ll repair or replace it if it crashes. Of course, there’s a catch: you’ll have to be flying within the company’s “safe operating guidelines.”
“Our customer support team works down the hall from the engineering team and we are here to help,” Skydio added in a memo.
Some other specs:
- Drone weight (including batter): 775 grams
- Flight time: 23 minutes
- Max Wind Speed Resistance: 25 mph
- 3D World Model Update Rate: > 1 million points per second
- Camera Sensor Type: Sony 1/2.3” 12.3MP CMOS
- Lens: f/2.8, 20 mm (at 35 mm equivalent)
- Communication Range to Phone: 200m
- Communication Range to Beacon: 1.5 km
- Communication Range to Controller: 3.5 km
The drone is available now for $999, with shipments expected to start in November. Skydio said there would be a limited supply in 2019 (with more drones coming in 2020), so the company recommends that if you want it for the holidays, you can reserve your spot in line by placing a $100 reservation on their site.
Skydio also added that all R1 owners would be offered Skydio 2 at a significantly discounted price. Grab your own Skydio 2 here.