Seems like everybody wants to sell you a drone these days. And since not everyone can sell the same drone, each one is slightly (usually incrementally) different, while simultaneously each one promises to be the best drone ever. It’s exhausting, really. Being terrible pilots, we’re mostly in favor of drones that we can fly without crashing them, and no matter how fancy your autopilot purports to be, the best drone for flying without crashing has to be Flyability’s Gimball, which is basically indestructible. The company, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, just posted a video of two Gimball drones tricked out with LEDs bouncing around a forest at night: it’s beautiful, and not something that any other drone would be able to do.
This was filmed entirely without special effects, using Gimball drones outfitted with 6 meters of neon wire, a couple dozen RGB LEDs, and some fluorescent material. The drones were flown manually, while the lights were running preprogrammed sequences combined with dynamic reactions to collisions as detected by the onboard sensors.
What makes the Gimball unique is that its roll cage actually rolls: it’s not just a rigid sphere that protects the drone. Being able to roll means that the cage contacting the environment is independent of the orientation of the drone inside, letting the drone keep itself under control no matter what it’s in the process of smashing into. In fact, it turns the environment into something useful: at 1:30 in the first video, for example, one of the drones temporarily wedges itself into a tree, creating a stable perch out of nothing.
If you want one of these as badly as we do, it’s probably worth mentioning that Flyability estimates the cost of a single Gimball at something like US $20,000. And that’s the starting price, presumably not including all the bells and whistles (and LED lights). Our only hope is that this is the price for a hand-built version with premium custom components, and that Flyability will eventually come up with a consumer version, bringing the cost down to something affordable for people on a blogger’s salary.