I may be barking up the wrong tree, but this technology seems pretty interesting.  I need a drone with the following attributes and I'm not sure if one exists or if someone is able to create one.

1. Ability to fly an HD video recorder (or several).  The recorder itself needs to broadcast a real-time image to a monitor.  There must be remote controls to allow for in-flight camera adjustments such as zoom and panning.

2. The drone itself needs to be able to fly/hover accurately outdoors for at least 20 minutes at speeds of up to 30 mph at between 1 and 20 meters altitude. 

3. It must be nimble.  It has to be able to quickly change direction.

4. It must be able to follow a pre-determined path while following a target.  I'm not sure if there is software that can be incorporated with the camera, but the target needs to stay in the picture.  The more this is fully automated by the drone, the better.  The target can either carry a homing device or the drone must be able to "recognize" the target.

5. It needs to be able to avoid unforeseen obstacles such as limbs and saplings for flying through the woods.  

6.  the drone must be able to communicate power level.

Let me know what you guys think.

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I think this is going to be a bit of a tall order, so you may need to scrap some requirements unless you have a very large budget, like 10k USD+. Most multicopters struggle to hover more than 30 minutes with no payload.. add a payload (and remove some extra batteries) and then add in the 30mph flying and flight time will decrease significantly. 

As far as I know there are no commercially available multicopters that have onboard obstacle detection and avoidance, so that will have to be done manually by an operator watching the live video stream.

Most multicopters have the ability to transmit power level (roughly), are nimble and several can follow a target based on a beacon including, I believe, Arducopter.. I think it needs some hacked version of ardustation to work though.

So you're definitely asking a lot; everything you listed is technically possible but doesn't exist all as one device yet.

This is what I've been hearing.  The deal-breaker is the obstacle avoidance.  I need it to fly through the woods on a course while following a target.  Small limbs and twigs are the problem.  

A drone that can take the place of setting up a complicated zipline or trolley through the woods for filming purposes would probably be worth the $10K as long as it can do the above.  The time saved on rigging alone would pay for the drone in about a year.  

1. Yes.

2. Yes.

3. Sort of. Bigger means less nimble and that also depends on your definition of nimble. 

4. Sort of. Most likely it would have to be piloted manually to get good enough shots to use in production.

5. No. Maybe check back in 20 years?

6. Yes.

Why can you not fly the machine yourself? it would save a load of hassle...

Sounds like your gonna chase MTB's, something I'm looking at also.

I think you'll have to fly this yourself, I can't imagine anything could autofly a MTB trail (if that's what you were thinking) small branches would be almost impossible for the drone to see at speed.

If you were doing something more wide open, like skiing or boarding you might be able to use follow me mode but I think even that would need quite some work.



Yes, filming mountain bikes in action is the target.  Engineering steady shots through the woods usually involves hours of setup and breakdown.  It sounds like drone technology is almost there to streamline the process.  

It sounds like a drone could be flown on a general course via GPS route and navigated around easily seen obstacles using a pilot.  It sounds like this would require a camera dedicated to navigation and another dedicated to filming the shot (a 2-person crew).  Not the most automated and hands-off system, but for advanced filming purposes I think it will work.  For leading and tailing shots, the drone could fly down the actual trail.  For side shots the drone could follow a pre-established safe route marked by flags to the outside of the shot.  

The Holy Grail would be for the system to be completely automated or to at least get the crew down to just one person.  If it was completely automated, it would be feasible to have a single mountain biker  be the star of his own film with no crew at all  -  just the drone.  I can't imagine a more simple and elegant solution for this type of film-making.


I think the limitation to all of this is the resolution of the GPS, within about 3 meters but also the speed the APM can process the gps info into movement. The technology exists but I'm not sure anything currently available could actually do it. Follow me using a GPS beacon worn by the rider might be the answer but it currently only updates once every 2 seconds, too slow, and also has to work via the GCS which at least doubles the latency. If this could be made to work by the beacon transmitting directly to the APM the latency would be more that halved. Then the uav needs to be small and agile and equipped with a good quality gyro stabilised gimbal.

Flying a predetermined set of waypoints might be difficult to judge speed and end up either flying too far ahead/behind or smacking into the rider.

Unless someone clever is working on it already I can't help feeling we're a bit away from a workable solution.

What country you in?

Cheers D

Nobody has bought out a solution for automatically flying around a building yet and they don't move.

I can't help but to think the solution will be mind-blowingly simple. 

The ability to fly through the woods automatically is not going to be possible this year.  Next year, maybe. 2 years, quite possibly.  That's my prediction.

What you need would be some sort of LIDAR based environmental dead-reckoning.  Not gonna happen this summer.

As the course is pre defined and as you say the alt method is to set up a line and camera tracker, then you are able to walk the course I suspect?

At this point in time, and as keeping GPS under trees is difficult, I am thinking of a way involving small Tx units on small stakes(pegs) u could push in beside the track.

The multi-rotor would have no trouble at all keeping them (radio beacon) under itself, u could even program differing altitudes to rise or fall to before the next one (beacon). Not too hard to set up now and a lot better than GPS or any other method (at present).

The small branch/limb would be best solved by "leading craft down SAFE path".

A small set up time and safe flying for one crew. The down course and down side could be handled with same beacon and offset directions.

A set up could be developed by me....

Damm it I have just convinced myself there is a market for radio beacon follow me systems...

10 beacons and a tracker in a pelican case sounds nice ;-)

I will keep u posted


Just a single beacon worn by the rider would do!

Multi beacons still might have issues as some riders will be faster than others.


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