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Shipping Update

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Making drones is really, really, hard. One would think we would have learned this rather thoroughly by now, but we continue to find new and unexpected challenges and marvel at the unexpected complexities. We’ve responded by throwing ourselves even harder back at the challenges and we continue to ship, make improvements, and give more than we’ve ever imagined possible to get Snap in your hands and make sure you will love it. We’ll share the latest with ongoing improvements, new challenges, shipping updates, Android, international shipments, that spare battery, and the case in this post.

Snap Keeps Getting Better

We continue to improve Snap. Most of our improvements have been in software, but we are also make some exciting hardware improvement as well. We think the shot at the top of this post nicely demonstrates the tracking improvements we’ve been making. This was shot using freeform tracking mode in high wind at 4k 30. We believe we are the only flying camera in the world capable of a shot of this speed, distance, and complexity with this level of quality. We will continue to invest in improving tracking shots to make sure Snap is the best drone in the world for capturing your adventures.

We continue to make improvements to the communication architecture and believe we are at state of the art for direct phone control. We recently set a new internal record of a 350 meter Out and Back flight while maintaining a video feed and telemetry for the entire distance. We have also made the necessary changes to our communication architecture to support our range extender, which will enable considerably improved range. We are innovating on milking the absolute most out of WiFi at every level and expect to have a steady stream of exciting news on improvements over the next few months.

We’ve been steadily improving Snap’s high wind performance. The shot below was done in 4k 30 mode with no post stabilization. You will notice a little bit of yaw wiggle, but otherwise, Snap had no problem in the 20 mph + winds at this kitesurfing destination.

Lastly, we have made some, gulp, hardware changes. We’ve had problems with the header than connects our GPS module to the circuit board breaking during “hard landings”, despite multiple reinforcement iterations. We’ve also seen that Snap did not always maintain a GPS fix when flying through forest or close to large buildings. This led us to test a newly available combined GPS/GLONASS module that is smaller, lighter, has a more robust method for attaching to the PCB, and claimed better location fix robustness. While we were skeptical, as we’ve seen mixed performance from combined modules in the past, we tested it thoroughly and found all of this to be true. Despite the large investment in our previous GPS module, we decided to make the switch so we could be confident that Snap is the best solution on the market. While we were redesigning the tail board for the new GPS module, we also improved the connection technique for the sonar module, which appeared to be vulnerable to the same type of crash damage as our original GPS module. The internal modular architecture of Snap has enabled us to make this changes as inline manufacturing improvements and just required swapping 2 of 13 circuit boards in Snap. We will continue to take advantage of this capability to upgrade Snap as other available hardware improves.

Shipping

We are currently behind our shipping targets and have only shipped about 2% of total orders to date. This rate will accelerate considerably, but we will not be able to make up for time lost.

The biggest delay has been a Snap unexpectedly smoking during our manufacturing testing. This required us to stop our line until we figured out why, which took two weeks. We traced the issue to our PCBA manufacturer damaging a capacitor on our motherboard during the depanelization process (when a large sheet of boards gets broken up into individual boards). This capacitor connected battery voltage to ground, and the damage turned it into a resistor/heater, which anyone familiar with Ohm’s law, will know is bad. We have subsequently checked all other boards for damage, changed the depanelization process to prevent future damage, added an additional quality check to detect this damage, and added new battery software protection to detect this failure and shut down when it detects it.

We also had an issue with our image sensor PCB warping slightly during the manufacturing process, which lead to focus issues and low yield on our gimbal assembly. After several iterations on tooling to hold this part flat during the SMT process (when components get soldered onto the circuit board), we now have a solution that appears to be working consistently.

We recognize we haven’t been adequately accounting for unexpected delays like this in our estimates and while we are optimistic again that the hardest problems are behind us, it is clear we have mistakenly believed this too many times now and need to pad our estimates more for unexpected issues.  Based on this, in addition to the specific delays above, our new expectation is that all pre-orders will be shipped by the end of September. If, we do not encounter any new meaty curve balls, then we expect to significantly beat this estimate.

Despite these challenges, we continue to ship units every day and we’ve been grateful for the positive feedback from customers so far. Many of you have asked about unboxing videos – you can see one from a customer below.

Android

The MVP (minimum viable product) for our Android app is done. We will be doing final testing and debugging over the next 10 days and then begin shipping to our Android pre-order customers. The initial version will only include manual control mode and then we will successively add Air Tripod tracking, Freeform tracking, Out and Back, Orbit, and Virtual Wire tracking modes over the next month. (The vast majority of the effort goes into setting up the back end of the app, so while only 1/6th of the modes are done, about 95% of the app code is complete.) As there are a large number of different Android devices, it will take some additional time for us to ensure compatibility for all of our customer’s different devices. We will ship only after we have taken steps to ensure compatibility for your specific device, so we while we will prioritize shipments based on order date, customers with less common phones may have to wait a bit longer. If you are an Android customer and interested in being part of our beta program to help test compatibility for your device, please email us at beta@vantagerobotics.com.

International Shipments

We will begin international shipments starting next week. For our international customers the reason for delaying shipments internationally wasn’t because we love you any less, just that we wanted to have the most fluid possible communications with any initial customer issues and prefered to avoid adding language and timezone to any debugging challenges. For all of you outside the US, thank you for your patience on this.

Spare Battery

We are not shipping batteries with initial orders, as we’re currently capacity constrained on battery pack production rates and don’t want to hold up getting full units to customers because of a battery shortage. We’re targeting beginning shipping spare batteries by mid-August. Sorry to limit you to 20 minutes per outing in the meantime! If you have a special adventure coming, please let us know and we’ll do our best to make exceptions on spare batteries where possible.

The Case

We are way behind on the case. We have put this project on hold until we are on top of all of the production challenges with Snap and will resume it as soon as we have the engineering capacity to do so. As of now, we expect to begin shipping the cases in September. In the meantime, we will be shipping everyone a fuselage “sock” to help protect the fuselage in your pack. We have been using this solution for about 1 year now, and frankly prefer it to the hard case, as it is lighter, faster to deploy, and a smaller total packed volume. Either way, our apologies for our delay on the hard case.

We’ll close with a recent video that one of our customers (and Beta tester) shared as a comment in a previous blog post. This video does not include any stabilization or color correction in his edit. We look forward to sharing more of your amazing work with Snap in posts to come.

Our best,

Tobin, Joe, and the VR team

 

We continue to ship…

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We’re continuing to crank units out the door as quickly as we can here at Vantage. We thought you might enjoy seeing how the first round of Snap deliveries arrive.

Right now, we’re jamming hard building more assembly jigs to increase throughput, ongoing refinement of quality tests and details on assembly instructions, and working through some inbound quality issues with a few components. We’re going to unreasonable lengths in some cases to make these initial units as perfect as possible, including vapor polishing and hand polishing of some components where we’ve been getting inconsistent surface finishes from our molder. We still battle delays from some vendors, but thankfully have been able to find second sources as needed when a vendor has fallen short. Everything is on track, although it continues to take about twice as much effort as we would have hoped!

We also continue to invest in improving software, adding capabilities, and fixing bugs as we find them. We are very close to being ready to release a major overhaul to our communications stack that reduces latency and reconnect time in the event of a signal drop, improves the quality of the streamed video, as well as improves range. We’ve also added a new flight mode – the tracking orbit shot. You can see some sample video of this below.

Thank you as always for all the support.

Until soon,

Tobin, Joe, and the team at Vantage

 

PS – On a personal note, my wife and I had another exciting milestone, with the birth of our son, Alden Joseph Fisher. Between Snap shipping and a new addition to the family, it’s definitely been a full month!

We’re shipping!

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The wait has been long, but the day has finally come. Vantage is now shipping Snaps to our pre-order customers. Thank you to everyone for sticking with us as we worked through the many challenges of creating a product as revolutionary as Snap.

The iOS app, Fly Snap, is currently available on the App Store. The Android app still needs a few more weeks of test and debug and will be released thereafter.

Our initial production rates are limited, but we are ramping up quickly, with the goal of shipping all pre-order units by the beginning of August. We will continue accepting pre-orders until June 25th and then stop taking new orders until our e-commerce site is live.

We won’t be satisfied until every one of you has a Snap AND loves it!  We look forward to hearing your feedback.

In the meantime, here’s a fun clip — A hawk was clearly excited about this milestone and, apparently, came by to wish us congratulations  ->

A similar red-tailed hawk actually snatched Snap out of the sky a few weeks ago. Presumably she is showing a bit more respect now that she knows it is a production unit, instead of a beta prototype.

In all seriousness, this has been an extremely exciting and challenging year for all of us at Vantage, as we’ve worked through roadblocks harder than we ever imagined. Your support and confidence has meant the world to us. Snap could not have happened without you.

Thank you and high-fives,

Tobin, Joe, and the Vantage team

 

I owe Scott $5

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We expect to have units ready for shipping today, but made the decision to hang onto them for the weekend to give adequate time for more rigorous burn-in testing. Unfortunately, we’re getting critical PCBs right now that we hoped to have much earlier. We just made the tough call that we don’t feel comfortable rushing finished units out the door in the next three hours, as much as the entire team is as eager to start shipping as you are for us to do so.

If you’ve been reading the comments closely from our last post, you might have noticed that I took Scott on in a friendly wager on whether we’d ship today or not. You win Scott. Please let me know how I can get you that $5. (Or I’d be happy to include it with your unit if you prefer.) Regarding your comment that you thought we wouldn’t ship until this fall, I’ll happily go double or nothing on that one if you’d like.

We’ll be burning the midnight oil through the weekend to make this happen (and maybe win my $5 back).

Tobin

We are really really close!

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We continue to work around the clock at Vantage to get you your Snaps and continue to battle new challenges. Our contract manufacturer (“CM”) has had one SMT line down (the tool that puts the components on the circuit board of your Snap), which has delayed the completion of some of our boards. Our CM tells us that all boards will be complete on May 30th at the latest, which pushes out the first shipments to June 9th. We are building up subassemblies as we wait for the final assembled circuit boards, so we can minimize lost time in our overall production schedule from this delay.

Our software team is making ongoing improvements on all of the details needed to make flying Snap an awesome experience. Here is some of our most recent progress:

  • We’re steadily improving the reliability of our video and control data stream and the speed of reconnect on signal drops. We’re currently adding a number of fancy tricks to combine data packets, measure and adapt to latency issues in real time, and eek every last drop of performance we can out of our data link.
  • We’ve added exponential control for both the app controls and the bluetooth two stick controller (we’re overdue on sharing more on both of these!). Exponential control makes it possible to have very fine grained control for subtle slow movements without limiting top end speed.
  • Gimbal pitch control wasn’t as smooth as we wanted. We changed design of the communication link to send rotation rates instead of target angles and added exponential control to the app interface so now Snap does buttery smooth gimbal pitch angle adjustments.
  • The Return To Home now varies behavior to match the circumstance, so Snap returns home slowly at lower altitude from close distances and more quickly at higher altitude when further away. We find this strikes a better balance of avoiding distant obstacles and keeping the experience mellow when Snap is close.
  • We’re working on improving the image sharpness in 1080p mode, which currently is not quite to spec.
  • Snap occasionally didn’t stay in place perfectly during both hand and ground takeoffs. We’ve found the bug and fixed it.

We’re keeping busy steadily improving every aspect of Snap as we wait for these final components to be assembled.

We know Snap has required way more patience than from all of you than you hoped (it has for us as well!). And we aren’t the only ones in the world offering flying cameras that take good video. Given that we’re asking you to wait just a bit longer, this seems like a good time to remind you what makes Snap special in the world:

  1. Safety: Imagine if your SLR camera said, “DANGER: DO NOT USE NEAR PEOPLE!” Think about how that would limit your photo albums. There is not a single high performance flying camera available today that can be used responsibly near people. This massively limits the range of places that you can fly your open bladed models, the type of shots you can get, and the amount that you will end up flying. Snap is the only high performance flying camera in the world designed to make you and everyone around feel at ease and safe.
  2. Ease of Use: We’ve designed Snap to be the easiest to use high performance flying camera in the world. Snap’s interface enables you to set up shots based on high level goals and let software do the work instead of relying primarily on complex two stick controllers (although you can do that with Snap too!). Snap has more options for tracking shots and easier interfaces for beautiful pre-planned shots than anything else available. These automated shots are only really possible with a safe flying camera, as letting software take control is massively irresponsible in most settings with drones that don’t consider safety.
  3. Extensibility: Snap is the only flying camera that allows you to extend capabilities over time. We are developing rotor sets specifically designed for amazing tracking shots, silent operation, 1-hour flight times, and a range of other super-powers that let you extend what you can do with your Snap.
  4. Portability: Our friends in China are giving us a good run for our money here, but Snap remains the only high performance flying camera that you can take and use anywhere. The ability to take Snap with us all the time and use it as inspiration strikes continues to change how we see the world and light our creative fire.

Of course, what excites us most, is seeing what you will do with these capabilities. And that is very very close for both you and us. If you are in the first batch of orders, you will be receiving an email from us this week to confirm your address and other important details. We’ll keep you in the loop as we work through these final steps.

Thank you as always for sticking with us through this journey.

– Tobin, Joe, and the rest of the team at Vantage

 

Quick Manufacturing Update

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Vantage TeamWe’ve had a few more bumps in the road on the way to production. The primary issue has been the discovery of some critical corner case bugs with our Wi-Fi module. Thankfully, our vendor has been great in addressing them and after a few weeks of long nights, we believe we have the issue solved, although additional testing and tuning is needed to be certain.

Vantage continues to expand our Beta program as well as our rigorous internal testing, which has been tremendously valuable in continuing to uncover bugs and manufacturing quality issues.

Here are a few specific examples of details we’ve been working on:

  • If the phone’s location estimate jumps unexpectedly when flying on the edge of a phone-centered geo-fence, it can make Snap do some alarming rapid movements. We’ve fixed this.
  • Our sonar module is now working superbly we now are tuning mode and speed specific ground avoidance behavior to make sure Snap hit the right balance between avoiding obstacles and smooth video.
  • Deceleration behavior when going from max speed to zero was a bit too abrupt and can induce jarring video. We have tuned this for smoother ease in and out.
  • Even high end GPS modules like the one we use in Snap can occasionally have large position estimation jumps in certain circumstances, which can make Snap dart off unexpectedly. We have created logic to detect and handle this so you never need to know about it.
  • Our EIS (electronic image stabilization) does not currently perform as well as we think should. We’re working with our chip vendor to improve this.

Here’s one example of the latest code in action:

We are currently doing a build for 20% of our pre-orders, which is well underway, albeit a bit delayed due to continued delays for one last PCB. We currently expect to begin shipping from this build in mid-May, barring further delays or new bugs.

Thank you for your continued patience as we work to finalize Snap. We know these continued delays test the patience of the most loyal customers. We are working as hard as humanly possible to work through all of the issues and ensure that Snap is worth the wait.

Tirelessly,

Tobin, Joe, and the rest of the Vantage Team

 

March Manufacturing Update

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Snap is not ready for production shipments yet, but we are getting extremely close. We have been steadily expanding our beta program and will continue to expand through the end of March.  We expect to ship production units starting in late April, barring new delays. We have had four primary recent delays: 1) We decided to replace the sonar module with a higher performance custom unit. 2) We continue to find new bugs with Beta units. 3) High-yield loss on a few parts has created inventory shortages. 4) Our volume PCB order is delayed. We will discuss each source of delay, as well as some more positive news in this update.

Sonar Module Upgrade

The sonar module is on the underside of Snap and is used for controlling altitude within sonar range and ground avoidance, which is especially useful in tracking and auto modes. As we expanded our testing, we found that our original sonar module didn’t work reliably over many terrain types and the range wasn’t sufficient to consistently avoid ground collisions, especially during fast tracking shots. The worst issue was that it occasionally gave erroneous data, which caused Snap to fly erratically. We had some ideas on how to make a better sonar module, but resisted making the change, as hardware changes always take longer than expected, and we know we’ve got more than one eager customer who doesn’t want to wait longer (not to mention, we had already, gulp, bought a whole lot of sonar modules). Ultimately, we decided that the performance as is was not acceptable and we took two long weeks to realize the sonar performance we knew was possible. This is now nearly complete and both ground avoidance and altitude hold are now working much better.

Beta Program

We have been steadily expanding our beta program and continue to feel so excited watching first time pilots harness the power of aerial photography with Snap.  Testers have graciously been pushing Snap to its limits and sending us valuable feedback.  Beta testers have praised Snap for being able to use it in so many places where other drones would not be welcome, its dynamic range and color profiles, the ease of the SmartTilt controls. We’ve also gotten a lot of feedback on bugs and ideas for improvement, which we’ve been acting upon.  Based on beta feedback, we’re working on improving the onboarding tutorial, creating a more constrained beginner mode, improving control over the gimbal pitch, and fixing a battery charging bug, in addition to a long list of other details. A few raw sample videos from our beta testers follow below. You can see many many more on our vimeo channel.

Inventory and Yield Loss

We’ve been working through the complexity of maintaining inventory on the 372 unique parts to make a Snap as we expand production. Yield and quality issues make this challenge more complicated and resulted in some delays, as we often have to scrap components that don’t meet quality standards or are damaged by production process errors. As a result, we have had shortages, and our overall production rates have often not been as high as we have targeted. Our team has been working through the root cause of all yield and quality issues to minimize this problem, as we have been ordering excess quantities for parts with known higher scrap rates. These issues happen for every product and never go away, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. However, Snap does continue to surprise us with the number of extremely challenging yield issues. As one example, GPS jamming reared its ugly head again unexpectedly when we switched the coating our our heat sink from a chromed zinc to an alodine coating. We switched to alodine as the coating is dimensionally slightly more accurate than the chromed zinc plating, which gave us a better fit between the heatsink and our plastic fuselage body. After doing this, we started seeing an increased number of units rejected due to not meeting our GPS accuracy quality standards. We ultimately had to pull apart all of the units made with the alodine coating, after discovering that this coating reduced the effectiveness of the grounding of our heat sink, which led to the heat sink acting as an antenna and jamming our GPS. We have subsequently switched back to the chromed zinc plating, but had to destroy more units than we like to think about to figure out the source of the problem and fix it.

Production Printed Circuit Board Delays

As we steadily ramp production, we have been transitioning to larger order quantities for our printed circuit boards (PCBs). We planned on longer lead times for these boards, but ran into a number of unexpected delays in a few last minute changes, questions from vendors, the final quotation process, and legal wrangling on contracts. Almost three weeks slipped away from us due to these banal issues. We hate it too.

Shipping Expectations

Last month, we said we targeted starting full scale production at the beginning of March and taking 6 weeks to fill all orders.  We are now in the beginning of March, but are still ramping production.  We continue to increase production rates and the number of units we ship each week. We will continue to call the units “beta” until we have fixed all known impactful bugs and are seeing our customers have consistently good experiences. Our expectation is that this will happen in late April. At our current pace, we expect to ship about 5% of our pre-orders in March, an additional 15% in April, and the balance May.

Feature Highlights – Tracking and Still Photo Samples

The tracking shots have quickly become our mode of choice for amazing videos. Tracking shots can be intimidating, as you are effectively letting software take over in the pilot seat, while you entirely divert your attention to your activity of choice.  We’ve found very few settings where we feel comfortable doing this with open bladed designs capable of causing injury if they unintentionally hit someone. Snap combination of safety, performance, and focus on ease of use make it an especially good platform for tracking shots.  Snap’s light weight, shrouded blades, and break apart design go a long way to give peace of mind as you give a microprocessor the keys (well, actually, seven microprocessors). Our software modes for tracking shots are intended to both give you more artistic control of your shots as well as help you understand how Snap will move with you, giving you more peace of mind.   Snap currently has three different tracking modes. In air tripod mode, Snap is constrained to a point, and yaws and pitches the camera to keep you in frame.

In virtual wire mode, Snap is constrained to a line you define in 3d space by pointing your phone. This shot is especially useful for creating interesting movement between the camera and subject as well as doing effective leading shots when your direction of motion is varied (like skiing down a halfpipe).

In free form tracking shots, Snap moves in lockstep with you in all directions with whatever initial offset you chose. This mode is especially effective for really big long tracking shots with large changes in altitude and big changes in direction.

We have a number of other tracking shots in development to expand on this range of options and continue to make Snap the best drone for tracking shots on the market.

In addition to being a great tool for video, Snap has also proved to be a mind stretching tool for photography.  Here are some recent samples of shots from Snap:

 

 

 

To close, we wanted to share our recently re-edited highlight reel, which includes both recent footage, as well as some of our favorite older shots. Hope you enjoy it!

Thanks again for your continued support and patience.  We know there are a million cool shots that you are missing out on while you wait for your Snap, and hate thinking about the lost opportunities.  Please know that we are pushing as hard as we can to get you flying, and won’t rest until all pre-orders are filled.

Best Wishes from the Vantage Team

Extreme Tech Challenge Recap

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Hello, again, from Vantage HQ!  If you’ve been following our progress closely, you  know that we competed in the Extreme Tech Challenge.  Now that everything has wrapped up, we wanted to give you a recap, but first of all, we won!

Here’s the full story:

Last fall, Vantage Robotics, along with over 1300 other startups, entered the XTC competition.  XTC is a tech challenge that allows young companies to be recognized and attract investment from leading tech luminaries.  In November of 2016, the top twenty-five contestants were announced.  We made it to this round, and were further interviewed by a panel of XTC judges.

Of those twenty-five, Vantage was selected to be one of the top ten companies invited to come to CES in Las Vegas last month.  Our co-founders flew out and presented to another panel of judges (you can read up about this and watch the video on an earlier blogpost, https://vantagerobotics.com/news/off-necker-island).  We qualified as one of the top three companies out of these ten.  We were invited to the final round, where we would present to a panel of industry leaders on Richard Branson’s private island in the Caribbean!  The list of judges included Sir Richard Branson himself, venture capitalist, founder and CEO of Breyer Capital, Jim Breyer, Veteran software entrepreneur and founder of C3 loT, Tom Siebel, Managing Partner of Aspect Ventures, Theresia Gouw, CTO for the Hillary for America campaign, Steph Hannon and COO of the iTutor Group Jerry Huang.

Last week Tobin and Joe made the trip to Necker Island, and presented with two other incredible companies, ReDeTec and Cresilon.  ReDeTec makes a device that recycles plastic to create 3d printing filaments, while Cresilon has created a gel that can stop massive bleeding in seconds.  You can watch the whole presentation, along with a shorter recap from all of the 10 qualifiers from CES here:   

After the presentations, the judges went away to deliberate.  The judges used the following criteria for their decision:

     -Is the company well timed for competing in a large and fast growing market?

     -Does the team have the track record and experience to achieve their goals?

     -Can this venture create an exceptional capital return for investors?

ReDeTec came in third place, leaving the top two remaining contestants neck and neck.  That is when the man himself, Sir Branson, took the mic.  Here is some of what he said about Vantage:

                           [The judges] felt there was a fantastic intensity around the Vantage team.  They thought is

                           was wonderful the way they [Vantage] have driven toward simplicity.  Obviously in my opinion

                           actually, I think the market is very large.  And I just love the product.  And the fact that it

                           won’t cut your head off is an advantage as well.

We must admit, hearing one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world say, “I just love the product”, sent tingles down our spines!

In the end, we edged out Cresilon with a score of 202-200, to take home first prize!  After a short speech from Tobin, the whole party was surprised with a performance by Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys.  You can watch the award ceremony and Tobin’s speech here (sorry, no Mix Master Mike performance though).

So, what did we win? According to XTC, their mission is to “empower entrepreneurs and their companies with visibility, resources and a rolodex that together, bring a company more visibility, the ability to scale at low to no incremental cost, and to surround entrepreneurs with mentors that can help them build on product success with business success“.  We’ve already started to experience the power of connecting to this super hero squad of the business world. Richard Branson and Virgin have been a personal hero and role model for us and the opportunity to engage with him like this is a dream come true.  With the backing that comes from our XTC win, we have a suite of connections, and vetted validation to our name.  This helps immensely with fundraising, hiring, and partnerships, the key elements needed to continue to improve Snap and create an amazing experience for you.

We are deeply honored and excited to take home that flamingo trophy, and want to give a huge shout out to all the other contestants as well as a massive thank you to the whole Extreme Tech Challenge team.

After the event, Tobin and Joe didn’t have too much time to lounge around on the island (no kiteboarding for either of them this time).  We spent our last day in the Caribbean tuning the virtual wire and free form tracking modes from the best office location we think we’ll ever experience – a small beach outside of our hotel.   You can see all of them on our new vimeo channel, but here are some of the highlights.

We set this shot up using an upward angled virtual wire. The upward wire angle and crossing back and forth under the wire creates a bit of movement between camera and subject, which adds more visual variation than straight tracking shots. This was shot in 4k 30, raw footage from camera. There were fairly strong offshore winds, so water was flat, but Snap was getting hit hard by gusts. Thanks to gimbal, there’s no sign of the wind or Snap’s rapid attitude changes to maintain position.

This next video is shot in some seriously high wind – enough to kiteboard!  We still see a bit of yaw movement in these extreme wind conditions; we are making steady progress on this and expect it to continue to improve.

The rest of the team continues to power through getting Snap ready to ship.  We will be sending out a post later this week with updates on our manufacturing ramp and shipping timing.

As always, thank you for following our progress and all the great words of encouragement and feedback we hear from so many of you. This journey has taken us to more places than we ever expected, but the destination remains unwavering – creating the world’s best flying camera that you can take with you anywhere, use anytime, and see the world in an entirely new way. Thank you for being a part of this journey.

Until soon,

Tobin, Joe, and the rest of the Vantage team

End of January Update/FAQ

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We’ve been making excellent progress towards getting Snap into your hands, despite some frustrating delays. As we get closer to shipping, we wanted to share our latest progress and answer some questions we’ve been hearing from you.  Let’s dive in:

Beta progress

Our Beta testing has been both positive and productive. We have been finding and fixing a healthy number of bugs, but haven’t had any issues requiring significant redesign. We’ve been getting valuable and constructive feedback as well, and incorporating it into our design wherever possible.  Most of the issues we’re dealing with have been software related, and the hardware related bugs have been on smaller components. 

Manufacturing status and shipping expectations

We cannot guarantee any precise shipping dates yet, but we target ending the beta test period and beginning production shipments on March 1st.  We think our chances of getting all our parts and hitting this goal is about 70%, and have no reason to expect any major delay.  From there, we expect that it will then take approximately six weeks to manufacture all pre-sale orders.  

We understand we have moved this date back enough times to stretch everyone’s patience. We’re not happy about it either. Delays from our manufacturer in shipping PCBAs we needed for FCC approval and beta scale-up were the primary cause of the most recent delays. However, the responsibility for maintaining the schedule is ultimately ours and we accept full responsibility.

We have subsequently received the delayed boards, passed FCC testing and resumed beta expansion. We will be scaling up beta over the course of the next month, so if you are an early backer and live in the US, look for an email from us as we expand the beta test.

We’ve made substantial progress building up our assembly line and training staff to scale-up production.  Check out this glue robot we created for building rotor sets below.  We are getting final parts delivered every day and our inventory is filling up.  We are not, however, entirely out of the woods.  Snap is made out of 450+ parts, and every single one is required before we can ship.  Until we have all of them in our hands, we are dependent on timetables that are not entirely in our control. 

Firmware and software status

We are finding and fixing bugs every day, and improving on all existing features.  Android is coming along well and will be ready to fly by the time we ship, although the full feature set may lag iOS just slightly.  Our autonomous flight and tracking modes are looking top notch.  Here is a recent video from a test flight testing our newest feature, free-form tracking with elevation changes.

How about some recent footage?

While we still want to post awesome footage that showcases Snap onto our youtube channel, that takes a lot of time and energy away from development, hence the lack of recent posts.  So we decided to make our private Vimeo channel public.  The videos on this channel have bugs, are unedited, and are sometimes a bit boring (unless you are excited to see Joe’s backyard), but this is the easiest way for everyone to keep up on our progress with full transparency.  We publish new videos just about everyday, and have also released old videos showing early prototypes (and much younger looking founders!). Check it out,  https://vimeo.com/user25547420

When do you expect to ship out the first wave of accessories?

We are focused on filling pre-sale orders.  We expect to complete our speed rotor set and range extender quickly after pre-order units have shipped.  If you want a glimpse into the future, these prototype rotors are designed to fly much faster and in high wind conditions.  Additionally, the prototype in the picture flies for 32 minutes and is over four times quieter than a Mavic according to our acoustic testing (67 dBA vs 74 dBA).

Necker Island

Tobin and Joe are heading out to Necker Island today, and will be presenting to a panel of judges, which includes Sir Richard Branson himself, tomorrow (Thursday)!  If you are interested in watching the event, there is an XTC Facebook event that will have a live feed, https://www.facebook.com/events/1444915052199045/.  The rest of the team will be hanging back and charging along in the office getting your Snaps ready (the team vacation will have to wait until next year).

 Do you have a user manual? Can I see the app before I get Snap? How does the app work?

We are still developing the app, and will not publish it until we are close to shipping.  The app contains tutorials, videos, and a full manual to help you get comfortable flying.  We will publish the tutorial videos before releasing the app, but not for a few more weeks.  Until then, here are a couple quick peeks of our iOS app.  Note that this is subject to small changes (like adding the free-form tracking to the list of automated features).

What features will or will not be ready at launch?

Manual control with the SmartTilt, all of our automated flights (Orbit and Out and Back) and tracking features (air tripod, virtual wire, and free form tracking), return-to-home, smart battery, and geofence functionality are all working very well right now and we expect them to be ready for launch.

There are a few areas that require additional work and may not be 100% complete at launch. The video streaming latency is excellent, but reliability and range still need software improvements. Tracking is GPS only, as our computer vision software isn’t ready. The DSM module will not be ready at launch. These issues are high priorities, and we plan to focus on getting them up as quickly as possible.

Will we be able to order extra parts and batteries before shipping still?

Our current payment partner is great with pre-order sales, but does not support shopping baskets for extra parts.  We need to relaunch our website with a new payment partner in order to do this.  This has been a lower priority and may not be ready when we start shipping, but we expect to launch soon after.  We will make sure to announce as soon as the new website is online!

When will the pre-sale end? 

Soon. We will make sure to announce a few days before it ends so that all of the last-minute shoppers will be able to squeeze in an order.

We’ve been touched by the outpouring of support from our community, and are incredibly grateful for your patience while we finalize everything over here.  We also love getting feedback from our community, so please feel comfortable letting us know if you have any questions, thoughts, or requests. 

— the Vantage Robotics team

We’re off to Necker Island!

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Several weeks ago  Vantage attended CES with the Extreme Tech Challenge as one of the top-ten finalists, and, as the picture suggests, we finished in the top three out of 1300 applicants! Next stop is Necker Island in early February to pitch a panel of judges including Sir Richard Branson himself.

The Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) is one of the largest startup competitions in the world, and CES is the stage for a round of live pitching. You can check out Tobin’s pitch below — it starts around the one-hour mark:

XTC’s video below will give you a better sense of what will happen on the island.  As co-creator Susi Mai mentions, it combines fun and business in a unique way— hard to beat a beautiful setting and the company of inspiring and smart people.

It was incredibly satisfying for us to receive this level of validation from such a well connected and experienced group of judges, especially given the impressive competition. But what matters most to us, above all else, is delivering a product to you that enables an out-of-this-world level of creative freedom and satisfaction. Building and improving upon a product with Snap’s level of complexity requires rare and amazing people, a worldwide network of technology suppliers, and of course, financial resources. The community we will be meeting with on Necker Island will help us continue to expand our capabilities on all of these fronts, so we can make sure to stay on the (figuratively only) bleeding edge of what’s possible and serve you for years to come. (And yes, the chance to go kitesurfing in the caribbean from a billionaire’s island is nice too. But then we’re back to work!)

In the meantime, the Vantage team continues to refine beta units, get more Snaps in the hands of beta testers, expand and improve our production line, and and work through a myriad list of logistical challenges. We’ll be sending out a more detailed update on delivery progress later this week, as we know all of you are eager to get your Snaps. The short story for those who can’t wait is that Snap is working well and scale up logistics are the primary hurdle between now and you getting your Snap.

Stay tuned for more updates and thanks for following our progress, as always!

— The Vantage team

 

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