Rotor Set Design Update

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Rotor Set Design Update

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After debuting Snap back in September, our engineering team has been in full force testing the product and ironing out the design details. We’re determined to make Snap the most advanced flying camera possible, and that means improving and upgrading certain design aspects right up until it goes into final production.

On that note, today we announce a new rotor set design (the rotor set is the folding assembly that has the four propellers, motors, and guards which attach to the body). As much as we loved the original metal-spoked design, we decided to consider an alternative prior to locking in on the final production design. After countless hours of testing, and greatly improved performance, we are pleased with the new design. Here it is:

This new design replaces the original tensegrity structure created by the steel spokes and replaces them with unidirectional pultruded carbon spokes on the bottom. These new spokes offer a number of advantages which will ultimately improve the following:

  • Overall Weight
  • Wind Performance
  • Thrust Efficiency
  • Durability

Because carbon fiber has about 1/7th the density of steel, we can make the spokes larger without increasing the weight (actually, this new design shaves off 15 grams). The larger spokes themselves also offer a few advantages:

First of all, the deeper cross section (3.9 mm instead of 0.3 mm) increases the Reynolds Number of the flow over the spokes, which reduces the energy lost in the turbulent wake behind the spoke. This change translates to longer flight time and improved stability in the wind. We can also get away with using fewer overall spokes, which further improves wind performance and efficiency.

Additionally, the stouter structure of the carbon spokes can bend (like a bow) on impact with the ground, which allows the form to absorb greater amounts of energy. Snap can now hit the ground harder without breaking (we tested this by adding weights to the rotor sets and dropping it from a 15-foot deck onto the concrete below).

One of the biggest challenges with this design was understanding how to effectively secure the ends of the spokes so that they could bend smoothly without breaking. After several months of careful material selection, finite element analysis, drop tests and revisions, we found a combination of soft and flexible materials in the hub, and stiffer materials in the rim, which have withstood even the hardest of our drop tests.

 

With this final design change complete, we are now preparing for the tooling release on March 1 and will begin the assembly and test of final units in late April. The new design also offers a host of manufacturing benefits –  massively reducing the number of unique parts – which will help get Snap to your doorstep faster! This leaves us on track to begin deliveries at the end of spring, in early June.

We have a number of other exciting updates coming soon, including a flight time announcement, a new office space and sharing flight video from our 4k camera, so stay tuned!

As always, thank you for your support.

— Tobin and the Vantage Robotics team

 

 

 

  • PM

    Reply

    Love the new look. Obviously lots of functional benefits to new carbon spoke design, but do you guys feel this approach diminishes overall user safety by any amount? One of the coolest features about Snap’s initial design was being able to pluck it right out of the air after wrapping up a flight. I might be a little more hesitant to try that with this more open spoke configuration.

  • Fady

    Reply

    I love the new design, Thanks for the update. One thing I wish to see is a controller ( or a module) to make snap fly over 1 mile away from the controller ( not automated flight, a controlled one when the controller and to be able to see the live video ). I feel 150 yard will not be enough. hopefully you will have that module in June too. Thanks for the update.

  • Gary Kegel

    Reply

    Looks Good.
    Have you tried 3 or 4 bladed props to get more lift at a lower speed to make it even quieter flight?

  • Lindsay Young

    Reply

    I agree with PM.
    The more open design “feels” like it will be a little more injury prone compared to the original spoke design, not that either design is really that resistant to a finger being put in to the blades. Given that it looks like we’re meant to grab the Snap “out of the air” it will make me cautious.

  • Tobin Fisher Post author

    Reply

    Fady – We do plan to release a range extender for Snap that will let you fly at least 1000 meters. This will be our first module after Snap, but it won’t be out until the Fall. We are in the process now of implementing a more powerful WiFi module that increases the broadcast power from 50 mW to 200 mW (just 100 mW in the EU, as required by law). This will increase the range for the downlink without the range extender, but will only have a small impact on the uplink (as the new module has an improved sensitivity as well). We’ll be releasing more details on this in a future update.

  • Tobin Fisher Post author

    Reply

    Thanks Gary! We have tried 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 bladed props. The 5 bladed ones were based on a Phd thesis that claimed that one could do acoustical canceling. What we found is that the perceived noise is primarily a function of the beat frequency of the props and the thrust level. Since the lower the beat frequency the better, we found 2 blades were best (look for some interesting 1 blade prop announcements from us in the future). One can decrease the noise for a given prop by increasing the pitch and thus reducing the hover rpm, but this also reduces the advance ratio, which limits top speed/ wind performance. So our current props are a balance between having an acceptable noise at hover while also maintaining solid wind performance and top speed. We will be releasing an alternative rotor set (call the “fast pods” at the moment) that have a much less pleasant noise at hover (imagine an angry swarm of hornets), but it goes like a bat out of hell.

    As far as going for more lift goes, that definitely isn’t an issue for us. We currently have a more than 4 to 1 thrust ratio, largely thanks to our FOC motor controllers, which lets us hit much higher RPMs than conventional ESCs.

  • Tobin Fisher Post author

    Reply

    Good question PM. We definitely still pluck this one out of the air as our standard (and only) way of launching and landing. I stuck my fingers directly in the props from the top yesterday as a matter of fact. It hurt a bit. But it didn’t draw blood or leave a mark. The outer edge and top of the tips of the blades are far and away the most dangerous, as they present a risk of eye injury and cut. The bottoms of the blades are a bit safer, as one hits the face of the blade first, which just pushes your finger back out.
    This design update does make it a bit easier to get your finger into the top of the blade, as the open region on top is slightly larger. Our decision to do so is based on trading off the annoyance of an accidental finger smack in the inner region of the blade top with the potential for better wind performance, top speed, and flight time. Snap remains incredibly safe, albeit edging its way just a bit towards higher performance.

  • PM

    Reply

    Gotcha, thanks for the reply and additional info. As a fellow climber I value not having my fingers sliced and diced 😉 Still far and away the safest looking option out there. Can’t wait for more updates!

  • Gary Kegel

    Reply

    Thanks for the reply and good explanation Of what you tried and how it worked. I am not worried about high speed right now Less noise is always good for most of what I want to do.
    But may have use for High speed next winter. And the noise on that will not be a problem. What do you think the speed will be on the high speed set up?

  • Ned Buratovich

    Reply

    Rank beginner questions here: could Snap be used indoors, at eye level, from 5-6 feet distance and pan horizontally to track a person walking across the room? Could Snap be used like a selfie-stick held off to the side, capturing video of me (i.e. camera pointed at me) yet keeping even with me as I walked forward? Could it do that if I were running or biking or even driving in a car?

    • celine

      Reply

      Snap is really designed for outdoor use. Many of its features use GPS, which can be obstructed indoors. Manual control does not, however use GPS. Outdoors, Snap could certainly be used as a selfie stick while running or biking. Snap’s top speed is a little over 30 mph, so you can’t drive too fast. We will be launching a high speed thrust module later that let’s us hit 60 mph, but you will have to wait a bit for that.

  • Fady

    Reply

    Thank you for the details Tobin. Good to know that you are working on that module to be released in fall. Looking forward for more updates !

  • Nigel

    Reply

    I am about to pre-order…will the order (shipped) include the improved motor housing?…regards.

  • Jacopo

    Reply

    Dear Tobin, does it mean the units shipped to Europe will mount a weaker Wi-Fi broadcaster with a power of just 100mW? Thank you

    • Tobin Fisher Post author

      Reply

      It will have the same wifi module, just switched in software to meet regulations. Assuming the European law allows it, we will enable customers to increase the broadcast power when they can do so legally.

  • Tobin Fisher Post author

    Reply

    Jacobo – Unfortunately, the EU regulations limit wifi to 100 mW. So it will ship with the same wifi module, but just de-rated in software to conform with the law (as all other manufacturers have to do as well). Perhaps some clever hackers will figure out a way to work around this 😉

  • Nate

    Reply

    Does the 1/2.3″ Sony Exmor IMX 377 allow for shooting video in log? The flat log footage would be great to have in order to get a wider range in color grading.

    • James Squires

      Reply

      We have gotten a lot of questions about all of the features for the camera. While we are still building out the software, we do plan on making the camera fully featured. We will come out with all the exact details for this in the future.

  • Nigel

    Reply

    Dear Tobin, that is understandable, but (and in line with many other similar devices that ship overseas ), could the power is switchable by the operator so that those of us who travel internationally are able to get what we pay for, and the compliance with power is up to the individual?..FYI DJI do this with their hand units. regards.

  • Tobin Fisher Post author

    Reply

    Gary – The high speed pods should be able to easily hit 60 mph.

  • Don

    Reply

    I’m curious about whether or not it will be ready to ship production units by summer? With this new redesign of the blade housings and news that we may see some 4K vid from its camera in the near future makes me think it is still in the R&D stage. Other posts stated you were looking for a distribution partner and at CES on the tech crunch stage you mentioned production has not yet started. Looking for a distribution partner can give an impression that production has started.
    I did pre-order one of these. However, if it won’t be released until late summer or after that, I would like a refund. I hate to say it but, for me, the romance is dying for this product.
    I don’t mean to be harsh but I was hoping for it to appear a little sooner than later.

    • James Squires

      Reply

      We are in the tooling review stage here. We will start shipping in early June, and will be sending units out sequentially starting with the first orders. When we have a better idea of when your specific order will be filled, we will send that along to you. Please email us at contact@vantagerobotics.com if you have any questions or concerns.

  • salmane

    Reply

    Does the new design give any performance boost over the original specs?

  • Kevin Wickens

    Reply

    Hi Tobin and all others. I think you guys have an amazing product and its safety features put it in a class that really sets it apart from absolutely everything else that we have seen up until now. I think your snap might just be the ultimate choice that so many of us sports enthusiast and consumer would be aerial photographer/videographers have been waiting for. There are however a few minor unknown details about the product that are holding me back from placing my pre-order today and I really hope you could shed some light on them cause I really really want to hit that red pre-order button up there!

    Firstly, as snap wants to woo over consumer and perhaps even prosumer and professional aerial photographers, the most important thing to us is the shots that we are able to get. Could you please elaborate on some of the following and pardon me for using terms that perhaps may be used by others. 1) Will the drone be able to “lead” a subject in a “lead mode”. In other words, a follow mode but where the drone is ahead of the person holding the controller. 2) Can you please clarify that snap is able to hold it’s camera focus on the user while performing various point “wires”. i.e. can you set up multiple wires for snap to follow while the camera keeps it’s focus on the subject or is the wire limited to just 2 positions? Last camera question….. can the user control the camera gimbal’s pitch while flying snap and while snap is in some of its autonomous flight modes such as orbit and virtual wire?

    Last and most important of all for the mountain biking community which… trust me, almost all mountain bikers have sports cameras and I know the vast majority of us would kill for a product like snap …… if it was able to follow the person on a hiking / mountain biking trail. You are working on a collision avoidance module and I was really hoping you could confirm whether this is an “absolutely it is coming, we just can’t confirm when” or even if I am so lucky to have an estimated release date for this module? If you cannot…. could you please specify the maixmum and minimum distances for your “follow” and “orbit” modes? I’m thinking if Snap is only 2 to 3 feet away from me…. and I stay 4 to 5 feet away from the trees! Hey that’s almost just as good as real obstacle avoidance… unless of course I run into a tree. lol.

    • celine

      Reply

      Thanks for the kind words Kevin. Snap will be able to track you from any angle you like, including in front of you. The camera is fixed focus, and will stay focused at all points. Right now, the virtual wire will just involve two points. However, that is just for the sake of making the controls easy. Snap uses the Mavlink protocol, enabling communication through ground stations that use Mavlink or custom scripts using the protocol. This will allow users like you to be able to program more complex flight paths. Users will be able to control the pitch of the camera while in flight. The gimbal allows the camera to point straight forward, straight down, and everything in between.

      As for the the obstacle avoidance, Snap already uses Sonar for avoiding objects directly below it. We are actively designing a more robust module that should be coming out this Fall. The programmable flight patterns distances are only limited by battery life and FAA regulations. You can get very wide with the orbit function. The follow feature uses GPS, which has a precision of a few feet. For that reason, we suggest keeping it at least 10-15 away from the subject to ensure that the subject can stay within frame.

  • Kevin Wickens

    Reply

    P.S. I wouldn’t prioritize the waterproof tracking module. Snap already has one available. (I think).

    http://www.amazon.com/Pelican-Micro-Snorkelers-Kayakers-clear/dp/B001CNNEXE

  • Altan Guzeldere

    Reply

    This leaves us on track to begin deliveries at the end of spring, in early June. This is absolutely devastating news 🙁
    Our 10 year marriage anniversary trip to Bora Bora is on April 26th. We were so hoping to have this to take with us to film some epic shots. Any chance I could leave a deposit and get a loaner prototype to borrow for the trip and then send back ? Otherwise Ill have to cancel my preorder cause we really wanted to take a drone with us and the Snap looked perfect.

    • celine

      Reply

      Hi Altan- Unfortunately we will not be able to get you a prototype. I hope you will continue to keep Vantage in mind for a future purchase. Enjoy your anniversary trip.

  • Ryan

    Reply

    Hi Tobin,
    Slightly dismayed about the May-June shipping date. Have had a drone pre-ordered for a while now, and was hoping to have it before leaving on a 3-month trip to India. Unfortunately I don’t think the late Spring ship date will mean it’ll be here in time. Completely understand that production delays happen just thought i’d ask a few questions:

    First, I understand that the drones ship sequentially, delivering to those who pre-ordered first and so on. I was wondering if we will be notified when our individual projected delivery will be. Something like: “Ryan you were the 134th person to pre-order. We expect to meet your specific order in mid-July.” This would give me a better feel of when to expect my drone.

    Second, I was curious if Vantage is doing any beta-testing for Snap. I–and certainly many others–would be interested in being a part of Snap’s development. This would provide those of us who have invested with Snap from the very beginning to become a more integral part of the development process… as well as give us a chance to get our hands on that beautiful little drone (prototype) a little quicker.

    Thanks for your transparency as the project continues to evolve! Hopefully I’ll hear from you soon!

    • James Squires

      Reply

      Sorry to miss your trip Ryan. We don’t have the specific shipping details on each order yet, but do plan on passing something like that along as soon as we have a better idea of when each order will get filled. We will have a few early beta models for people to demo, but are mostly focusing on filling the pre-sale orders.

  • Kevin

    Reply

    Thanks you so so much for the reply Celine. That means a lot to me given the lengthy number of questions, I had. That does it. I’m sold. Even with all the other new drones hitting the market this spring, Snap offers me a lot more of what I really want and need for my aerial photography needs. I have so many more questions but I will hold off for now. lol.

  • Gary Kegel

    Reply

    Will The people that have preordered be able to download the control App before you start shipping So we can see how it works and make comments on it?

  • Don

    Reply

    If I remember correctly, Tobin mentioned at CES that it could utilize some of the control software packages already out there.

    It sounds like it will be pretty versatile. I’m having a tough time waiting for it.

  • Jacopo

    Reply

    Thank you Tobin,
    just a question on the software: it will be possible to switch between 100mW and 200mW through the software settings? I’m planning to use Snap when I travel outside Europe (included US) and it would be really disappointing to have an unfair limitation on Snap broadcasting power over the units which are shipped domestically. If you will make the user able to switch manually between 100 and 200mW through the app settings it will be fair to all your customers.
    One more question: will the Snap Application will be available for Windows Phone users too at launch?
    Thank you

  • Joe

    Reply

    Looking really nice, just ordered mine a few days ago after months of trying to make up my mind. Can’t wait to see the other modules that you have planned for the battery and speed, sound awesome.

  • Kevin Wickens

    Reply

    So Celine, if I am to understand correctly (I’m very novice at this). So Snap will work with QGroundControl and the APM Mission Planner which will allow for more advanced flight mission planning?

  • Kevin

    Reply

    Just saw the answer to my question on the main specs page! Apologies for not seeing it sooner!

  • Seth

    Reply

    Hi Tobin and vantage staff,
    I really like your product but I have a few questions. Will you guys be at the Makers fair in San Mateo in May? I plan to be there. Will there be a warranty for the quad and what parts will be replaceable? I realize the Quad is designed for aerial photography but will it be able to do FPV as well or Will this be a possibility in the future?

    • James Squires

      Reply

      Unfortunately, we will not be at the Maker Faire this year. Before we ship, you can cancel your order for a full refund. Once we ship, there will be a 30 day money back guarantee along with a 1-yr warranty on all manufacturing defects. We will also sell all sorts of extra/replacement parts. Snap will have FPV!

  • Lindsay Young

    Reply

    What can you tell us about the planned tracking module?
    I already use my phone for a variety of other purposes when out and about (such as being my bike computer / fitness tracker) and find using multiple “background” apps a bit hit and miss, so I would be intending to buy the tracker if/when it is available.

    Also, I remember seeing a mention that you plan to have the Snap able to track a person. I originally guessed this would be via the attached phone (or tracking module?), but could it be programmed to do this via machine vision? It would be great if I could just wear a particular t-shirt / jacket and have my Snap attempt to follow me.

  • Kevin Wickens

    Reply

    Ya know… Lindsay Young is right. I just realized that once the waterproof tracking beacon is available. That would give Snap another major advantage over any other single drone out there. The ability to give the beacon to a friend and tell snap to follow the beacon while a 3rd party is checking out the live feed of the video. Oh man! I can’t even imagine the possibilities here. It’s like the best of the best of several other aerial filming devices all wrapped into one plus the added safety.

    Tobin or Celine can you guys give us any details about the ground 1500 meter WiFi range extender module? Is it a controller like a DSM controller or is it something that would just extend the range of our smart phone and the smart phone (and / or bluetooth video game controller) would still be the primary controller. Oh that also makes me wonder…. if someone where to buy a DSM controller, wouldn’t that controller have extended range in of its own right at launch without your range extender module. Regardless, I’m still planning on buying yours. I’m definitely way more interested in keeping everything within the same company.

  • Darrin

    Reply

    Wth all the extra modules being mentioned. I’m concerned about cost. Once I have paid for the initial unit how much more is it going to cost for range extenders, faster motor package, bigger battery, collision avoidance etc?
    The initial price is fine but if it keeps adding up it will make the phantom 4 start to look attractive. Having said that I would prefer to stay with Snap.

    • James Squires

      Reply

      Just to be clear, the battery isn’t going to change, so you can stock up there. Those accessories are exactly that. Snap is going to work great as it is, but some people will want to add or change some features to fit their needs. We haven’t figured out prices for them yet, but will let you know as we get more details.

  • Gary Kegel

    Reply

    When you give us our shipping date can we order a couple extra Batteries to come with our Snap?

    • James Squires

      Reply

      Yes. We will be selling extra batteries on our website before we ship so that you can get them in the same box as your Snap. They will cost $65. We will make sure to announce when they go on sale.

  • Darrin

    Reply

    This is a small low profile unit is good but will go out of line of sight very quickly. What range will the FPV feed be good for?

    • James Squires

      Reply

      FPV will work for about 150m. For shots longer than that, we recommend using an autonomous flight program. We will also be coming out with a range extender module that will greatly increase the FPV range later this year.

  • Darrin

    Reply

    with FPV range currently @ 150m you suggest using a autonomous flight program for greater distance. Does this mean setting Snap to automatically fly a designated path to video. But since the FPV range is only 150m you will not see any of what snap is seeing until it returns and is downloaded?

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