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Monday, June 16, 2014, 09:29 am PT (12:29 pm ET)

iOS-connected AirDog & Hexo+ drones both auto-follow users for aerial footage

The next generation of iOS-compatible flying camera drones appears to be focused on autonomy, as two upcoming devices promise to fly, follow and record users on their own with no piloting necessary.




A pair of high-profile Kickstarter campaigns for the Hexo+ and AirDog both show new types of aerial drones that are focused on auto-follow technology. Each device will dynamically track and record a user as they move, making the cameras more intelligent than current drone offerings like the DJI Phantom or Parrot AR.Drone.

With 29 days to go in its crowd funding campaign, The Squadrone System Hexo+ has already blown past its $50,000 goal, earning nearly $300,000 as of Monday. Its system is shown utilizing an iPhone application that presents users with a 3D model of their camera's point of view.

Using multi-touch, users will be able to pinch and set the distance between the subject and the drone. Then the iPhone app can be used to activate the drone's flight, allowing it to fly to a pre-set position and wait for the subject to begin moving.

From there, the drone will follow and film that subject, providing unique aerial footage without any additional input required.




The Hexo+ has its own GPS, and tracks a user carrying their iPhone with the accompanying app. The two devices talk to each other through a "Mavlink protocol" that allows the drone to follow and record.

The AirDog takes a slightly different approach, following the user through dedicated hardware called the AirLeash. This small, waterproof tracking device sends location and movement trajectory data to the drone, which then performs in-flight calculations to follow and record the user wearing the AirLeash.




While the AirDog app for iPhone won't be used as a tracker, it does allow users to set the distance, height and angle of the flying camera. Users can also use the app to create custom flight paths.

The AirDog hasn't yet reached its funding goal, but appears on track to do so. With 39 days left in its Kickstarter campaign, it has raised more than $110,000 of its $200,000 milestone.

Both drones rely on users to bring their own camera, with included gimbal mounts that are designed to hold and control the popular GoPro lineup. And portability is also a focus for both products — the AirDog is a foldable quadcopter, while the Hexo+ has a foldable hexacopter design.

Despite the lack of camera, neither option will come cheap: The Hexo+ is the more affordable version, with a planned retail price of $899, while the AirDog and its AirLeash tracker are expected to cost $1,500.

Of course, Kickstarter backers can get in at lower prices if they pledge money now. The AirDog is estimated to ship this November, while Hexo+ backers have a longer wait until May of 2015.