Small enough to carry around in a backpack, the Zano mini-drone utilizes virtual tethering with a smartphone to automatically follow a user in order to take pictures or shoot high definition video. Specifically, the user can set a hold position and the Zano will automatically maintain that distance from the user’s smartphone as well as avoid obstacles while in follow mode. The creators of the device, Torquing Group, have also included a manual control mode in the mobile app interface. Simply tilting the phone in a specific direction will cause the Zano to travel in the same direction.
Within the interface, a scroll bar will control the altitude of the Zano and the altitude will also be displayed on the screen. There’s a 360 degree rotate function that will allow a user to line up a specific shot for a photo or a short video. Of course, the creators have included digital image stabilization in the camera functionality to shoot smooth video. In addition, the pixel front display will also double as the camera flash when attempting to take photos in low light situations. While the 5-megapixel camera is capable of taking 1080p video at 60 fps, Torquing Group is limiting video recording to 720p due to Wi-Fi bandwidth restrictions.
Regarding flight time, the Zano will operate for approximately 10 to 15 minutes before requiring a recharge. The length of time that the Zano will stay in the air is highly dependent on weather conditions. While the remaining flight time is displayed on the smartphone, the Zano also includes a fail-safe to trigger an automatic return to the user when the battery life is getting low. This fail-safe will also kick in when signal strength is spotty or when the device is too far from the user’s iOS or Android smartphone.
One useful feature of the Zano is the removable battery. Hypothetically, a user could bring multiple batteries on a trip in order to get a couple hours of shooting time. Regarding operating range, the Zano will have a maximum range of 15 to 30 meters (approximately 49 to 98 feet) as well as a top speed of 25 miles per hour. To operate safely, the Zano includes IR sensors for obstacle avoidance as well as sonar and air pressure sensors for flying. In addition, the Zano appears to be able to operate in a light rain storm as the propellers create a shield from the falling water.
Additional features being developed for the Zano, but perhaps not available at launch, include facial recognition technology, 360 / 180 degree panoramic photos, target tracking using image processing, a bevy of image editing tools within the app and a swarming function that will allow a single user to control multiple Zano drones from one device. The swarming feature would be ideal for capturing multiple video angles of a particular event.
At this time, the Zano has already been fully funded on Kickstarter by more than five times the original funding goal. Targeting a delivery window around June 2015, the Zano can still be backed for a cost of approximately $265. As with any crowdfunded project on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, be aware that manufacturing delays often push back the initial delivery window by weeks or even months.