Aside from the camera, the new and improved Skydio 2+ comes eerily close to becoming the ideal drone.
THE PERFECT DRONE FOR EVERYONE WILL NEVER BE FOUND. There are simply too many reasons to acquire a drone. Some people enjoy competing in races. Some people prefer to make grand cinematic masterpieces, while others prefer to follow fast-paced action. What makes a drone good at one task may not be so good at another. However, if you’re looking for speed and manoeuvrability, the Skydio 2+ is a close second.
It does have certain flaws, which I’ll discuss further on. However, the Skydio 2+’s tracking and collision-avoidance software outperforms anything else I’ve tried by a factor of ten. Best of all, Skydio encapsulates all of this sophistication in a remarkably simple and intuitive flying control mechanism.
Newly Revised Edition
Skydio began with the R1, a drone with outstanding features—it was totally automated and didn’t require a controller—but it was prohibitively pricey and appeared to be geared primarily at the enterprise market. Following that, the company released the Skydio 2, which reduced the price and introduced additional consumer-friendly features.
The Skydio 2 had two flaws: it could only stay aloft for around 20 minutes, and many consumers had difficulties keeping the drone connected to Wi-Fi beyond its limited range (3.5 kilometres in the first version.) With a larger, more powerful battery and two pop-up antennae, the Skydio 2+ hardware update addresses those two shortcomings, extending the drone’s range and providing a stronger signal.
The two hardware upgrades are slight but nice, and Skydio is now only selling the 2+. Don’t worry, though, if you bought both. The finest of what’s new in software will still function for you, and the software on this drone is quite excellent.
I really wish Skydio had upgraded the camera, though. The 1/2.3-inch sensor can shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second, which is fine for most users, but comparing it to the higher-resolution camera in the Autel Evo Lite+ (7/10, WIRED Recommends) demonstrated how old the Skydio camera is. Get the DJI Air 2S (9/10, WIRED Recommends) or Evo Lite+ if image quality is your top priority. The video quality of the Skydio 2+ is excellent, but given how far ahead of the competition the rest of the drone is, it’s frustrating that the camera isn’t.
I also thought the white balance was a little off. You can alter it via the app, but log video, like as DJI’s D-log, isn’t supported. Shooting in log produces footage with a higher dynamic range, which you may color-correct in software later (a process that can be greatly streamlined with colour LUTs). However, if you don’t intend to color-grade or edit your video in software, the lack of a log gamma curve won’t be an issue.
The lack of a log curve will mostly effect professional photographers, which is unfortunate because the Skydio would otherwise be an excellent choice. (If you can live without log, it still is.) However, because to the Skydio’s autonomous flight features, you won’t need hours of practise to acquire beautiful images.
The approach to obstacle avoidance used by Skydio’s automated flight system is the secret to its success. The Skydio 2 series employs six onboard navigation cameras to create a real-time 3D model of its surroundings, rather than seeking for obstacles to avoid. It then uses this information, as well as some AI intelligence, to navigate its way across areas where other drones can’t.
I tried all I could to persuade the Skydio 2+ to collide with something while following me through a dense forest, but it wouldn’t. It flew paths that I couldn’t have imagined flying on my own. I had to remind myself not to try some of the things the Skydio can accomplish with the other drones I was trying because the collision-avoidance system is so good. Skydio’s collision-avoidance mechanism is without a doubt the greatest I’ve ever used.
That is impressive in and of itself, but it was also there in the original Skydio 2. Skydio debuted KeyFrame, an automatic flight system, at CES earlier this year. Skydio’s powerful 3D modelling capabilities is transformed into an automated flight system via KeyFrame. You may programme the drone to fly on 3D tracks.
Simply fly to where you want to begin, mark it onscreen in the app, then fly to the next area you want to be, mark it, and so on, using as many points as you wish. When you’ve finished setting up all of your KeyFrame points, the Skydio 2+ will fly past them, resulting in a seamless, continuous photo along your flight route. The results are significantly superior to anything I could achieve by myself. I also found the automated flight path “Cable” to be quite useful. It works in the same way, but with only a start and end point, as well as a slider to change the flying speed between them.
The Skydio 2+ may be controlled in three different ways. The first option is to use the app (iOS, Android.) This is how you’ll operate the drone if you buy the lowest Skydio kit, the Starter Kit. The experience you have here is influenced by your device to some extent. I tried flying it with a OnePlus 7 Pro and found it to be functional, though I preferred the controller. It’s an extra $179, but it’s totally worth it.
The third and most intriguing method of operating the Skydio 2+ is to use a device called the Beacon ($219). I was reminded of a Roku control by the Beacon. It doesn’t have a screen, but it does include button controls for basic functions and gesture support. It’s made to be used with a drone following you, and it features built-in GPS to improve tracking accuracy. The motions worked great for me when I was walking, but they were less beneficial when I was riding a bike or moving quicker than strolling. It’s just one more feature that the Skydio 2+ has that no other drone can match.
That is, in the end, what makes the Skydio 2+ so appealing: you can fly like a pro without having to learn their techniques. Unfortunately, when compared to our current top recommendation for most people, the DJI Air 2S, it has a somewhat shorter battery life and a less amazing camera. The Skydio 2+ is a wonderful entry point into the realm of drone-based filmmaking if you can live without the 1-inch sensor and don’t know D-log from a log.