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AUVSI Xponential New Blood

This article was originally published in August/September 2016 issue.

So, it seems these day that there is a drone show or event almost every week and that’s in America alone. Last week (as of this writing), I was fortunate enough to be sent to the AUVSI Xponential in New Orleans, LA. I had lived in the Big Easy for most of the 90s, so I was double stoked for the trip. Anyone who knows what AUVSI is also knows that the show is generally a governmental/military focused event, but there is so much more. Sure, the likes of Lockheed Martin and NASA have little to offer us Hobby/ Prosumer pilots out, but their super-cool machines are what pave the way for our models. Even though their numbers were small by comparison, there were still a vast number of more consumer friendly machines at this year’s show and many of them were from manufacturers you wouldn’t normally expect.

Ehang was in attendance this year and they had a few very nice machines on display and in-flight. The new Ghost Drone 2.0 is an entirely new machine and anyone with (unfortunate) experience with the original GhostDrone can rest assured that this incarnation is worlds better. The 2.0 features an all new GPS/Compass setup, making it much more predictable and reliable, which was the major downfall of the first machine. The 2.0 also now utilizes 2-blade props and features a manual mode for flying indoors, but that’s just scratching the surface of this new machine. Ehang also had their new FPV system on display in addition to their larger Falcon utility drone. Be sure to check them out for all of their latest releases.

AEE was in NOLA this year with a myriad of new drones for both hobby and commercial use. Their Toruk AP11 Drone packs 10 inch props, 25 minutes of flight time and a 16MP camera that also shoots 1080 at 60fps with a 10x digital zoom! The AP11 also utilizes a WiFi repeater for great signal even at long distances. Better still, this machine also comes with a wrist band for “Follow Me” function as well as GPS tracking.

Autel Robotics is another “new kid on the block” when it comes to drones, but I guarantee you that their name will be well-known by this time next year. Their X-Star and X-Star Premium boast some pretty incredible features and specs for pennies on the dollar and they have one of the best (if not the best) warrantees on the market in this day and age. The X-Star Premium has 1.2 miles of range right out of the box, can shoot in 720, 1080 or 4k, comes with its own carrying case, has a 3-axis gimbal and offers up to 25 minutes of flight time. They do all that for $899.99 and they offer domestic support 7 days a week! I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing many, many X-Stars in the sky this coming year.

There you have it, just a few of the new players on the block for 2016. Some you may know, some you may not, but we’ll see how that all plays out over the next few months as their machines get into the hands of the masses. I have a feeling the drone world is about to get a lot more diverse and competitive … which means cooler toys and models at a better price point for all of us!