The consumer drone market is a crowded space with a lot of competition. Is there room for another? There might be for the LevelOne from CyPhy which is unlike any other consumer drone I've seen. We've chosen a hex rotar because the hex rotor gives us the ability to do what we call level up flight. This is the flight where the vehicle always stays perfectly flat. It doesn't twist, it doesn't tilt, it doesn't pitch or roll or yaw. And avoids these wild gyrations that have to be canceled out by the heavy, fragile expensive gimbal. For these small drones weight--even tens of grams--can dramatically reduce battery life. In initial tests, the LevelOne got about 20 minutes of battery life, which is on par with more expensive counterparts.
Outside we found the drone handled wind very well. It was able to hover in a 10-15 mile an hour breeze.
The drone can be geofenced, which means you can draw an invisible fence around the drone and it won't be able to leave that area--something handy for someone new to drone piloting.
Level One can be flown with a smartphone, tablet or hobby remote controller. There's still a lot of work to go before the app is fully functional.
CyPhy has been making professional drones for years, but this is its first foray into the consumer space. The company has an impressive office and R&D lab about 40 minutes north of Boston.
While the drone can be preordered for 495 dollars, it will cost more than 600 when it becomes more widely available. That makes it significantly less expensive than the 1300-dollar Phantom from category leader DJI. We look at our competitors as attacking the prosumer market. People who have a passion for photography that are maybe starting to take on some light industrial applications where we're addressing the real consumer market which is a few hundred dollar price point.
Preorders will start shipping in February 2016 with wider availability later in the year. Until then the team has a lot of work to do. Most of it will be focused on the camera and the mobile app. Right now, the drone uses a Sony action cam as a placeholder, but it will integrate a proprietary full HD camera into the body of the drone.