Drones: Bay Area firms flying high with new technology upgrades

SAN MATEO (KTVU) -- Drones are gaining in acceptance and the segment is getting more competitive in terms of pricing as a growing number of consumers buy them.
 
GoPro, based in San Mateo, recently introduced its Karma Drone, a foldable device that still requires a lot of care to avoid bending or breaking its blades and parts.
 
Consumers will be able to buy the Karma Drone for $800 without a camera and for $1,200 with GoPro's Hero 5 camera.
 
What does Go Pro's main competitor say?
 
"This is technology that is evolving so quickly and we have some really wonderful competitors around and that makes us to be even better and more innovative," said Romeo Durscher, who works for DJI Drones.
 
DJI is offering the DJI Mavic, a $1,000 drone that is more foldable and compact than the GoPro Karma drone and less expensive than Go Pro's Karma/camera combo.
 
It's also far more high tech and easier to fly. The Mavic has sophisticated software that avoids obstacle collisions and can be set to maintain a constant altitude over changing terrain.
 
"It's small (and) easy to carry," Durscher said. "You can put it in a backpack, go on a bike ride (or) go on a hike."
 
DJI is the world's largest manufacturer of aircraft drones, making seven out of every 10 drones that are operating around the world.
 
Even at $1,000, most of the first wave of buyers will have a purpose.
 
For example, professional photographers will shoot movies and still photographs for mostly business clients like real estate brokers.  And companies that need to do aerial inspections of equipment and infrastructure can save money by not using manned aircraft.
 
"There are so many applications where this platform can come in (and) not only make the job safer, but also faster," Durscher said.
 
Government agencies can use them to assist fire departments, first responders, search and rescue agencies or any agency requiring aerial observation even in highly dangerous or toxic environments. The devices can automatically follow a rescuer or someone who needs help.
 
Durscher said his drones can track suspects fleeing from law enforcement, capturing up to 27 minutes of movement on one battery.
 
"Active track (is) where the drone tracks the subject in the middle of the frame and keeps it in the middle of the frame, adjusting the flight path by itself," he said.
 
 
By KTVU reporter Tom Vacar.
 
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