Skydiving robot can maneuver in free fall to capture epic footage

Anyone who has ever dropped their phone onto a hard floor knows that high-tech gadgets and gravity don’t mix too well. That is fortunately not the case for the so-called Freefall Camera, a new smart robot camera that’s designed to autonomously film skydivers as they leap out of airplanes thousands of feet in the air. Developed by researchers from the U.K.’s University of Nottingham, the nifty extreme sports gadget was recently shown off at the 2017 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2017) in Vancouver, Canada.

“Sport skydiving relies on video footage for training and competing,” David Alatorre Troncoso, one of the researchers who developed the robot camera, told Digital Trends. “Currently, the only way to get a video of your jump is to ask a skydiving videographer to follow you wearing a camera helmet. Other extreme sports are experimenting with drones to capture the action remotely and, as a skydiving mechanical engineering student, I decided to make this my undergraduate project. While the aim was never to replicate the skill and artistic experience of a professional videographer, I hoped to explore an alternative and open up more options within the sport.”

Troncoso was joined on the creation of the Freefall Camera by fellow engineer-skydivers Pete Storey, Tom Shorten, and Tom Dryden. What they built was a robotic platform which can move through the air, controlling its terminal velocity like a skydiver. The robot moves using four ailerons and adjusts its velocity by changing its surface area to create more drag. To use it, a skydiver jumps out of a plane holding the robot and then releases it. Sensors aboard the robot then allow it to visually track the skydiver and point the camera in the right direction. After the skydive, the robot can deploy a parachute and steer to reach a predefined landing area.

So how do you get your hands on this awesome creation then? Unfortunately, that’s the bad news. “We get this question a lot,” Troncoso said. “The short answer is [that it’s not for sale] right now. Aviation regulators for most of the world’s airspace are very clear about dropping things from planes, and the consensus is that it’s a terrible idea and nobody should do it. Skydivers are one of a few exceptions to this rule! However, with the recent explosion in popularity of drones, aviation regulations are beginning to change and adapt. Only time will tell whether these changes end up favoring or holding back autonomous craft like the freefall camera.”

In other words, keep watching the skies!

Giveaways

Print your heart’s desire: Enter our giveaway to win a free Monoprice 3D printer

We’re giving away a $400 Monoprice MP Voxel 3D Printer. It's easy to use, especially for beginners, with its simple menu system and touchscreen display. It comes fully assembled so you can spend more time printing instead of setting up.
Photography

These are the best action cameras money can buy

Action cameras are great tools for capturing videos of your everyday activities, whether it's a birthday party or the steepest slope you've ever descended on your snowboard. These are the best money can buy.
Photography

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…
Product Review

Meet Z6, the breakout star in Nikon's new mirrorless lineup

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.
Emerging Tech

Warm ski beanie instantly hardens into a head-protecting helmet upon impact

Wool hats are way more comfortable than hard helmets. You know what they're not? Safer. That could soon change, thanks to an innovative new ski beanie which instantly hardens upon impact.
Deals

Take to the skies with these 5 drones on sale for under $50

On the hunt for some cool tech for under $50? We've rounded up 5 drones under $50 that you can still get before Christmas. These models are great for kids, adults, and anyone just getting started with drones.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Emerging Tech

This unusual nature-inspired robot is equally at home on land or in the water

This intriguing, nature-inspired robot may look unusual, but it's impressively capable of moving on both land and water without problem. Heck, it can even travel on ice if necessary.
Emerging Tech

This cryptocurrency wallet for kids isn’t nearly as stupid as it sounds

So you’ve taught your 6-year-old child to read, write, and play nice with others. What’s next? Give them a base understanding of cryptocurrency, of course. This Kickstarter aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.