The official GoPro drone moves closer to reality with official footage from the rig making its first appearance online.
The action-camera makers posted the video, titled “GoPro: Sneak Peek of GoPro Quadcopter Footage” to their YouTube channel and embedded it on their site. The footage shows a variety of gentle scenes floating around, through, and over a mountain forest location that looks awfully similar to the Santa Cruz mountains (not far from their San Mateo headquarter), and following ATVs up dusty trails.
No indication of the quadcopter’s configuration is given — we checked for hints that might be given by shadows or reflections, but most of the footage avoids that by filming into the sun. However, it’s clear that this early prototype rig is able to keep its footage level and smooth, likely through a physical gimbal (making the quad the fanciest of GoPro mounts yet) or building a camera directly into the quadcopter and using a digital leveling system that uses a crop of a higher resolution video, similar to the Parrot BeBop drone. The latter seems less likely, although it would allow the company known for tiny cameras to make a more compact drone than one carrying a mechanical gimbal.
The footage, while peaceful in a way that corresponds with much drone footage, is also interesting in that it doesn’t highlight the fast-moving, extreme energy GoPro video that the company has built its empire around. The first two shots of the ATV driving down the trail appear to be full speed, but the final one looks to be slowed down from a higher frame rate — a common technique with GoPro and drone footage used to create a dreamy, floating appearance, but to also smooth out jitters and bumps incurred while in flight.
The footage begins with a note on the screen explaining “The following video was captured using a developmental prototype of GoPro’s quadcopter and stabilization system.” It continues, “This footage has not been stabilized in post-production” — which might be referring to tools like Warp Stabilizer for video editing software Premiere, rather than the slow-down trick.
GoPro has ramped up its plans for the quadcopter through 2015, making the official announcement this past May. Since then, they have posted a job opening for a quadcopter specialist, and announced the drone will be released during the first half of 2016.
The camera makers have long been a favorite for aerial photo and videography, with their light, small device that is easily transportable by small consumer quadcopters. While the speculation of their own foray into making a drone has been long anticipated, they didn’t commit to it for quite some time. But with this year’s announcement, as well as their sharing the GoPro bus access with 3D Robotics for their own Solo drone (which came shortly after key 3DR team member Pablo Lema moved to GoPro), the company is now moving full-speed ahead with their official aerial endeavors. And the timing makes sense, especially with DJI now making its own cameras for its quadcopters, and also releasing them as carry-around devices. With DJI’s announcement of opening a Palo Alto office, the two new high-profile gadget makers seem slated for a head-on collision.