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.
Selfie drones, which are rapidly becoming more affordable, lighter, and easier to use--and, as of April 12, available in Apple stores around the country. SEE ALSO: Drone crashes through woman's apartment window Why would this method of self-documentation be more irksome than oblivious tourists flailing about with selfie sticks? As the name implies, selfie drones are a class of aerial products designed to hover near the owner while filming and taking still photos. The Hover, pictured above, is a relatively slick entrant to the field. It can lock on a specific person's face and follow that individual for up to 10 minutes.
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.
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.
Auto-Follow: Using face and body detection technology, the Hover Camera can accompany your journey hands-free with video recording and photo taking while cycling, running, surfing, or even hang-gliding No FAA Registration Required: Fly confidently and right out of the box without having FAA limitations and restrictions like other drones and operating temperature is 5 degree Celsius-35 degree Celsius (41 degree Fahrenheit-95 degree Fahrenheit) Carbon Fiber Cage: Hover Camera is crafted out of carbon fiber making it extra durable to falls and accidents; The Passport's propellers are enclosed in a cage providing the highest standard of safety Gesture Control Owner Mode: With owner mode you just scan your face into the app and the Passport will automatically find, follow, and record you. Carbon Fiber Cage: Hover Camera is crafted out of carbon fiber making it extra durable to falls and accidents; The Passport's propellers are enclosed in a cage providing the highest standard of safety Gesture Control Owner Mode: With owner mode you just scan your face into the app and the Passport will automatically find, follow, and record you.