UPDATE 10/31/2016: We’ve been informed that there have been significant shipping delays for the Hover Camera Passport, in addition to site outages that disrupted orders at launch. Shipments appeared to be delayed for unclear reasons for many customers since launch earlier this month, and some of our readers still haven’t received shipments. Late last week, we also saw complaints about weeks-long shipping estimates becoming one-to-three month estimates.
We got in touch with Zero Zero Robotics, and were told that the shipping delays were due to Typhoon Haima, which hit the Hong Kong/Shenzhen area on October 21. We were also told the months-long estimates were due to a glitch, and that most customers should now be seeing one-to-two week estimates.
The company told us that they are honoring refund requests by working with third-party credit processing services, but that they have received relatively few refund requests. The company also offered an additional $100 discount to users affected by the site outage when trying to order. I’ve been told there are no plans to extend that discount to other early buyers or those affected by shipping delays.
The company published an update on shipping delays late last week, which you can read here. As of today, the shipments to the customers we’ve been in contact with have left the warehouse, and it appears everything is in order again. If you’re a Hover Camera customer and experience more issues with shipments in the future, we encourage you to contact us.
In April, we were pretty excited to hear about Zero Zero Robotics’ Hover Camera. Despite there being a lot of drones on the market already, Hover Camera set itself apart with its sleek design, flight stabilization technology, and the ability to follow users around automatically using its forward-facing camera. Today, Zero Zero Robotics is shipping out the Hover Camera as the Hover Camera Passport, the first of many devices that the company plans to release.
The Hover Camera Passport is a lightweight quadcopter drone that folds up like a book for storage. Instead of having a foam or plastic frame, the team used carbon fiber enclosures, partly to make the Passport safer to use by preventing fingers from getting caught in the rotors. Its front 13 MP camera can take 4k video. There’s also a 3 MP camera on the underside, along with sonar. All of the cameras and sensors on the drone work with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC in the spine to power the drone’s flight stabilization algorithm, allowing the drone to fly in a circle around a subject or rotate 360 degrees for a panorama while still capturing smooth video. Flight time is only about eight minutes, but the battery can be swapped out for a fresh one.
The Passport’s greatest trick is that it can use its front camera to lock onto a person and follow them around. So far, this only works with people — you won’t be able to have a drone follow your cat around yet. But, it can follow people at high speeds. I met up with Zero Zero Robotics co-founder MQ Wang last week, and he showed me some sample videos of runners, skaters, and cyclists taken using the Hover Camera Passport. That feature works better when the drone is a little further away from its subject, but for more close-up use, the Passport can use face tracking to follow subjects, too.
I got one more look at the Passport when I met with Wang last week, and while the drone has its weaknesses — namely, strong gusts of wind and that it’s pretty noisy — it seems to have come along very well. The 360-degree orbit and rotation features look great, with the Passport hovering evenly as it moves in a circle. When looking at some of the sample videos shot with the front camera, as I was also pretty impressed with how well the drone’s camera transitioned between shaded areas and well-lit areas. But, Wang says the drone’s camera isn’t well-suited for nighttime use, especially if you’re thinking of using the tracking features.
The drone can also be connected to a smartphone for manual control, by swiping up or down or by tilting the phone. It’s also possible to get a drone’s eye view using the app, but the team is still working on adding features. It won’t be ready at launch, but Facebook Live integration could be coming in the near future, so you’d be able to stream video from Passport directly to Facebook.
The Hover Camera Passport will start shipping out today. It’ll be available for $550 for a limited time, after which it’ll go up to its regular price of $600.