SKYDIO was founded by Mr. Bry and Abe Bachrach who met as graduate students at the  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and later started Google's drone program, Project Wing a -long with Matt Donahoe, an interface designer.

In 2014, with funding from the venture firm Andreessen  Horowitz, the company began working on what would become the RI.

Skydio has since raised $70 million from Andreessen and several other investors, including Institutional Venture Partners, Playground Global and the basketball player Kevin Durant.

Skydio's basic goal was a drone that requires no pilot.

When you launch the RI using a smartphone app, you have your subject stand in front of the drone, then tap that person on the screen - now it's locked on.

You can also select one of several ''cinematic modes'' which specify the direction from which the drone will try to record its subject. [It can even predict your path and stay ahead of you to shoot a  selfie from the front].

After takeoff, it's hands off. The drone operates independently.

On the eight minute flight I saw - through a wooded trail sparsely populated with runners and dogs - the RI followed its target with eerie determination, avoiding every obstacle as naturally an experienced human pilot might, and never requiring help.

It lost its subject -me- only once,  but I had to really work to make that happen.

Time for some caveats :

Skydio's technology is far from perfect. It doesn't work well with inclement weather or at night. It also requires a very high powered processor, which gobbles up battery life; the RI gets 16 minutes  per flight, compared with around 20 for competing drones.

Skydio's drone is also entering a crowded marketplace that hasn't been kind to new players. A parade of drone start-ups have gone belly-up in the last couple of years, unable to compete with  DJI's  technical innovation and manufacturing scale.

''I know this technology is so much smarter, but I'm just not sure it's enough to overtake the behemoth that is  DJI,'' said Sally French, a journalist who covers the drone industry at her site, The Drone Girl.

She was also shown a preview of the RI last week.

The Research Publishing on Technology, Drones and Services continues to Part 3.


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