2022 is already off to a strong start in the drone industry, and we’re less than a week in. That’s largely thanks to a significant product reveal from California-based drone maker Skydio, which this week announced its new Skydio 2+ drone.
Couple its longer battery life and range with an improved camera software called Keyframe, and Skydio’s newest drone, the Skydio 2+, reinvigorates the competition with DJI, which launched its DJI Mavic 3 drone in December that blew everyone away with its massive battery life and incredible camera (albeit massive price tag, too).
Everything you need to know about Skydio 2+ drone
While there a handful of highlights with the new Skydio 2+ drone, the standout feature is a new software called Skydio KeyFrame.
Skydio Keyframe: This AI feature is designed to make your filmmaking easier through a system where you design what could be complex camera moves through taps on your phone. Rather than a complicated setup of cranes, jibs and large production crews, a drone might do the job for you.
You define a flight path by setting what Skydio calls a KeyFrame. From there, Skydio’s AI software takes your design and creates a continuous camera path between those points. And once those KeyFrames are set, you can play it back, forward or backwards, as frequently as you choose. You can even adjust the speed to your preference using the speed slight (and you can also change the speed midway through the flight path).
“Our goal when developing KeyFrame was to enable any pilot—no matter their skill level—to capture complex Hollywood-style camera moves that would be impossible any other way,” according to a statement from Skydio. “KeyFrame does not replace human creativity or composition, but allows a pilot to unlock incredible shots with just a few taps.”
KeyFrame is not GPS based, which could be appealing to pilots flying in GPS-denied environments. Instead, it relies on Skydio’s own navigation cameras.
And here’s good news if you already have an existing Skydio drone: you aren’t even imssing out. KeyFrame is available now for all existing Skydio 2 customers as well.
Longer wireless range and battery life:
The drone’s battery life is now 27 minutes, a 20% increase from the earlier Skydio 2 model.
Meanwhile, the Skydio 2+ Beacon, which is an add-on accessory, now allows you to extend the range by 3 km — up from its old ability to extend the range by 1.5 km.
The price tag: It’s reasonable — and far cheaper than the DJI Mavic 3 (which starts at $2,199). The Skydio 2+ starts at $1,099 for the Starter Kit, or runs as high as $2,169 for the Pro Kit which is decked out with all the extra goodies including the Skydio 2+ Beacon, Dual charger and two spare batteries (so three total).
Here are the various new Skydio 2+ drone configurations and their price breakdown:
The Skydio 2+ announcement
The Skydio 2+ announcement came just a day after I dropped my 2022 drone predictions. In them, I suggested a new Skydio drone would come soon. That speculation was fueled primarily because of the company’s eye-popping holiday promo, where it was selling the Skydio 2 Starter kit at a $400 discount, bringing the formerly $1,349 drone + accessory kit down to just $949. Nothing like an inventory offload to welcome in a fresh batch of drones.
The announcement also aligns with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is the world’s largest trade show and is being held this week in Las Vegas, Nevada. Among the other drone highlights of CES: The Drone Racing League (DRL) is set to host its DRL Algorand World Championship Season 2021-22 finale race tonight at an outdoor course along the Las Vegas strip at T-Mobile Arena.
The earlier Skydio 2 drone launched in 2019 as an impressively crash-proof, follow-me drone. At the time (and arguably still now), no other drone can provide that level of awareness to avoid obstacles and navigate around them at that price point. Read my review of the Skydio 2 drone here.
While the Skydio 2 originally appealed to the action sports crowd given its ability to navigate around trees to film a biker, or down a slope to document a snowboarder, the drone also took off in the commercial realm. The drone also took off as a tool for enterprise users to perform higher-quality inspections faster with minimal pilot training — primarily in the wake of Skydio 3D Scan, which is an adaptive scanning software designed to automate the data capture process needed to generate comprehensive, high-resolution 3D models.
The Skydio 2 was also a vast improvement over the Skydio R1, which was $2,499 and had a complicated sales pitch given its capabilities (sweet autonomous tech yet no controller) versus its more enterprise-level price tag.
Last year, Skydio marked a major milestone by raising a $170 million Series D funding round, bringing the total Skydio valuation to more than $1 billion.
Skydio has been seen as one of the closest competitors to DJI. And beyond its lower price tag than the Mavic 3 and its incredible sense and avoid tech (among other features), it has one clear advantage that is undeniable in one area: it’s an American drone company.