Foldability is all the hype in the drone world these days, as is the case with the GoPro Karma and the DJI Mavic. But before these two were announced, we already heard about Zero Zero Robotics' Hover Camera 4K drone that is truly foldable and also fully enclosed -- in the sense that you can grab hold it any way you want without getting cut by the propellers, plus you're less likely to cause havoc in a room. Today, we bring you the good news that this nifty little machine -- under the new name "Passport" -- is finally launching for 549. For those who aren't already familiar, the Passport is an ultra-lightweight and ultra-compact quadcopter powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon Flight platform. It comes with a 13-megapixel still camera that can shoot 4K video, and there's a foldable carbon-fiber enclosure for the propellers -- the drone is about the size of a VHS cassette tape when folded, if you know what that is.
Built with artificial intelligence, the Hover Camera Passport selfie drone detects and follows users. Source: Zero Zero Robotics At this year's CES, a little company named Zero Zero Robotics demonstrated a flying camera drone that hovers near you taking pictures and autonomously detects, follows and records your movements. That selfie drone, called Hover Camera Passport, is now available and just picked up a huge backer in the form of Apple Inc. The smartphone giant has started exclusively selling the drone online and in its Apple stores in five countries. The Hover Camera Passport is powered by internally-developed artificial intelligence that the company says allows consumers to operate the drone camera out of the box and works for both indoor and outdoor environments.
USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham takes a look at two new consumer drones: the Yuneec Breeze and Hover Camera Passport. LOS ANGELES -- So you want to buy a drone as a holiday gift. For the past few years, buyers were faced with a dilemma: splash out on a $1,000 drone that came with a video camera, a smart app and plenty of airborne functionality. Or spend near $100 for what was essentially a toy: learning to fly them was a challenge, and the camera optics, if they had any, were inferior. This year's crop of drones are easier to fly, smaller, cuter and can shoot sharp 4K-video footage in the air -- at prices near $500.
The Hover Camera Passport foldable drone made quite the impression when it first launched a little over two years ago, and then it received a major update in April last year, which added a smartphone-free mode that automatically tracks and records its owner. Save for the rumored Snap acquisition deal (which Zero Zero Robotics still denies today), we had barely heard from the drone maker since then, but today it's back with a surprise announcement: The launch of its second selfie drone, Hover 2. As you'd expect, the Hover 2 has inherited all the best bits of the Passport, especially its small foldable form factor, sturdy carbon fibre cage enclosure, Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (model not specified but it's "four times more powerful than" before), 4K 30fps video capture, face tracking and body tracking. The two drones look similar from afar, though the newer model benefits from more than double the original flight time, jumping from a mere 10 minutes to 19 minutes (but maximum flight time is 23 minutes; more on that later). This may explain the heavier weight of 490 grams or about 1.1 pounds -- almost twice as much as before. When switched on, you'll notice a new major feature on the Hover 2: Its swiveling "Optical Radar" that pops out of the top of the body.
My first drone flight experience was with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision, and as much as I appreciated its advanced capabilities at the time, I longed for something more compact -- a device so small that I wouldn't need to carry a separate bag or case for it, preferably without sacrificing performance. Eventually, a Chinese startup called Zero Zero Robotics released the $599 Hover Camera Passport, which comes in the unique form of a foldable cage while packing cool features like body tracking, face tracking and orbiting. I got to spend some time with the Passport over the past few weeks, and eventually it got to the point where I rarely leave home without it, lest I find time to take it for a quick spin. Compared to higher-end foldable drones like DJI's Mavic Pro and GoPro's Karma (assuming GoPro issues a fix for random power losses), the Passport's major advantages are its size, weight and caged propellers. At just 242 grams, or 0.53 pounds, the Passport is exempt from the FAA's mandatory registration and is also unlikely to hurt anyone should something go wrong, as its propellers are shielded by a carbon fiber enclosure.