The Hover Camera Passport ($599) is a delightful little gadget: It’s a foldable, portable drone that has a built-in camera and auto-follow features.You could throw it up in the air and take selfies whenever and wherever you like.
The Hover Camera drone is equipped with a pretty decent little camera. It shoots video in 4K, stills at 13 megapixels, and even has a built-in flash — but believe it or not, the camera itself isn’t as interesting as what’s behind it. The Hover Camera Passport stands apart from other portable drones thanks to image recognition software, which (along with a quad-core Snapdragon processor) allows the drone to not only sense/track faces and bodies, but also maintain its position in space without the aid of GPS.
So it could recognize and follow a target. Just previously you had to use the companion app on your phone, and pick out the subject you wanted to follow on screen. With the new feature, you essentially “register” your face via the app once, and then you can forget about the phone. The next time you launch Hover Camera, it will fly in place, turning around until it spots you. Once it has you locked, it’ll follow you as before. To grab a selfie, just raise your hand until the front LED flashes, and gives you a three-count.
We’ve seen selfie drones before, and visual recognition is becoming a more popular way of tracking subjects than GPS. Using the camera to track isn’t always as dependable as GPS , but it does solve a few problems. Namely, no need for a separate GPS device (or phone), one less thing to charge, and your chosen target is easier to keep in the center of the shot (GPS doesn’t always exactly where you are, but obviously the camera does).
In general, battery life is fairly short at 8-10 minutes. Expect about 10 minutes of air time from Hover Camera. Though with a charge time of about 40 minutes, it won’t be long until you’re back in the air again.
Another limitation is the camera stabilization.It’s obvious that the electronic stabilization the Passport uses is working overtime, and without it videos would be un-watchable. It’s definitely doing its job. The problem I had was that even with the electronic stabilization working overtime, the videos often came out choppy. This detracted from the actual video quality, making the output look more like 720p than 4K video.
If you’re looking for a second drone to supplement a beast like the DJI Inspire or Phantom, or looking for a entry-level drone you can fool around with indoors or around friends, Hover camera could definitely be for you.But at $599, the Hover Camera doesn’t come cheap, so let’s hope these new features keep on coming.