Tech Talk: Snap’s Smart Battery

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Tech Talk: Snap’s Smart Battery

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Here’s what shouldn’t happen: You’re determined to capture a shot of your buddy’s rock jump into the lake, but your flying camera nears the ominous dead-battery zone. You scramble to ensure a safe return, hug your expensive tech and cry, and the whole experience leaves you on edge about ever flying it again.

Fortunately, we engineered Snap to worry about those little details so you don’t have to. Focus on getting that perfect shot and we’ll take care of the rest. Meet our smart battery:

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Our battery keeps track of exactly how much capacity is left and fuses that information with GPS data to create what we call a “dynamic geofence,” a kind of safety net to make sure your Snap can always make it back home.

We’re using a new kind of battery cell that not only allows for long flight time, but extremely high power and rapid acceleration. With its high discharge rate, our battery allows energy-to-weight and power-to-weight ratios that have been previously unattainable (the fine print: 4 cell/14.8 v LiIon battery with 3000 mAh capacity, and 30 amp continuous discharge ability). One battery charge will last just over 20 minutes, with a top speed of 33 mph and faster acceleration than a Ferrari. You could say that we put you in the driver’s seat.

The battery’s fuel-gauge system shows the remaining charge on an illuminated LED strip, which allows you to assess remaining power at a glance. Sensors detect when the battery is in your hand, signaling the strip to light up without fumbling for a button to press.

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When it’s time for a new battery, swapping is simple with our magnetic connection system. Unlike competitors with integrated batteries, Snap lets you easily swap out the battery and get back in the air. Snap’s primary components (fuselage, rotor set and battery) have magnetic connections, so they easily assemble and—just as important—safely break apart in the event of a crash, sort of like an F1 race car. Our charging accessories will also feature this same magnetic connection system, so you can connect the battery to the charger with your eyes closed and in no time at all.

Designing an electrical connection system that could break away at any angle was a serious challenge. In order to not cause damage to the connectors on break away, we took inspiration from ejector seats on airplanes and created a design that springs the connection away to avoid putting undesirable stresses on the connectors. We then brutally tested this, found flaws, refined, tested again, and repeated for longer than any sane person would consider. The result is a rock-solid connector that requires zero thought and maximal robustness.

Our smart battery is designed to get you in the air as quickly as possible. Fumbling with on-off switches only slows you down, so Snap doesn’t have one. Connecting the battery triggers an electronic handoff that automatically enables it to provide power to Snap. And if you want to leave the battery connected, it has a standby mode that lets you leave the app connected, but consumes minimal power until you are ready for take off. All of this aids in the fact that you can take Snap out of your backpack, assemble it, and get flying in a super short amount of time.

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A battery with over a 30 Watt hours of energy needs to be treated with care. In addition to mechanically recessed pins, Snap’s electronic handshake with the battery before providing power means it is impossible to short. If you happen to carry around the battery in a pocket full of paper clips and loose change, we’ve got you covered!

In the coming months we will be revamping the website, where you’ll be able to purchase additional battery packs; these will retail for $100.

As always, please leave questions in the comments section and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Stay tuned for more blog posts and 4k footage in the coming weeks, too.

— Tobin, Joe, and the Vantage Robotics team

  • Lindsay Young

    Reply

    I had a couple of Q’s on the previous blog post.
    But this post brings up a question on the battery, or rather the standby power usage.
    I have a toy here which even when turned off drains its battery reasonably quickly. I need to recharge it every three or four weeks, even when not using it, otherwise the battery will be exhausted when I want to use it.
    What do you expect Snap’s standby to be like? Especially if the smarts are in the battery, that all takes power to keep alive.

  • Thor

    Reply

    What is the estimated charge time of the battery, and how long would it need to sit prior to charging? Or rather, how hot does it get when under normal (i.e. smooth flight) use? Is there more than one charging option — as the connectors are very proprietary?

    • James Squires

      Reply

      The battery will warm up while in use, more so in warm weather and vigorous use. And yes, you will want to let it cool down before charging. There are a lot of variables with regards to how long it takes to cool down, and we haven’t timed it. But the cool down time isn’t outrageous or anything. Just use your best judgement. Seeing as you know enough to ask a question like this, we are sure that you will!

  • John McCormick VII

    Reply

    Sounds good but as I read the title, I had hoped and will expect that you do the following. When the battery senses a low charge it automatically comes to control, i.e. the flyer/home base. Looking forward to hearing when you develop that feature.

    • celine

      Reply

      Hey John- Snap does have this capability, we touch on it in the third paragraph: “Our battery keeps track of exactly how much capacity is left and fuses that information with GPS data to create what we call a “dynamic geofence,” a kind of safety net to make sure your Snap can always make it back home.” Thanks for your interest! Please reach out with more questions.

  • Ian Phillips

    Reply

    I’m almost convinced to preorder Snap but can you tell me if it has a ‘return to home’ button or something similar apart from when the battery is low? Thanks.

    • James Squires

      Reply

      Snap does have this capability, we touch on it in the third paragraph: “Our battery keeps track of exactly how much capacity is left and fuses that information with GPS data to create what we call a “dynamic geofence,” a kind of safety net to make sure your Snap can always make it back home.” There is also a Return Home feature to deal with battery life or loss of signal.

  • stephen

    Reply

    This looks really smart, and the attention to detail is appreciated. I’ll no doubt be picking up a couple of extra batteries when they are available.

  • Joey Morelli

    Reply

    Hey Tobin & Staff,

    First off this is a brilliant battery design guys – thank you.

    QUESTIONS:

    1. Will you make available multi-pack chargers (2 batteries at once)?
    2. The bottom of this battery looks to be the landing platform – will this damage the battery (what’s it made of)?
    3. This says 20 minutes per charge (not a lot of time)…are you working on a battery that has 1 hour or more fly time?
    4. Does the battery, if power is live when connected, begin draining even when not flying / on standby?
    5. Is the battery watertight?
    6. Does the battery fuel gauge show accurately on the UI of the controller when flying?

    Thanks! Cannot wait to get mine!!

    ~ Joey

    • James Squires

      Reply

      Hi Joey,

      •Each charger will only charge one battery at a time.
      •The battery will be made out of polycarbonate, which is very durable. However, we have been taking off and landing from our hand so the battery won’t take too much of a beating. Also please remember that it is only attached to the body with magnets. If it does for some reason hit the ground hard, it will break away which will help diffuse a lot of the impact.
      •20 minutes is pretty competitive for quads this size. That being said, we are designing an accessory that will allow Snap to stay in the air for up to an hour. That should be coming out in the Fall.
      •Snap will use the battery as soon as it is connected. That being said, the major of power used is for the rotors. If you connect Snap to a battery but don’t fly it, the battery will last much much longer than 20 minutes.
      •That battery will be water resistant, but we don’t recommend testing how much it can take.
      •The UI will show the battery life.

  • Chris

    Reply

    Looks great guys! How much time does it take to re-charge and any thoughts on prices for extra batteries?

  • TheDreamer

    Reply

    Looking at pictures and videos of the Snap drone, it’s such an elegant design; it is my hope that it will perform to the promised standards. I’m looking to acquire a half dozen drones from different companies to start a business in an African country. One of my needs is the ability to modify the payload on a given drone for different purposes, e.g multi-spectral imaging. Can the Snap accommodate, say, a FLIR Quark camera that weighs just 18.3g? How would that affect performance? Say I want to redirect my Snap to deliver a small package, a letter, or emergency medical supplies, it would be nice if the Snap had a small cavity or where you can hook your own customized delivery payload. I realize that the Snap isn’t being designed to do any of these things, but this is just some food for thought.

    • James Squires

      Reply

      Thanks for the kind words TheDreamer. Snap has the strength to carry something that weighs 18.3g, but it would be up to you to find a way to secure it. As you mentioned, Snap really isn’t designed for this. It is a cool idea though. Maybe we will design some sort of accessory that allows for carrying supplies.

  • Kevin Wickens

    Reply

    This battery looks super sick and slick and “new age”.

    Quick and easy question (I hope) This will help myself and hopefully others. You have a super-long flight module in the works. Does the long flight module include a larger capacity battery or is the module based on the propeller side of things. This would be important to us as it will help us decide if we should buy several of these batteries as soon as they become available or if maybe we should buy maybe one spare for now and hold off on buying more until the long-flight module comes out. = D

    Thanks so much Celine and Tobin and the rest of the team. You guys have been absolutely wonderful in answering all our questions. We hope that our questions help you guys out too in the long run. = )

    Looking forward to the update on your range extending module. That’s a big one for a lot of us I think. 🙂

  • Joe

    Reply

    Looks like an awesome battery. I was just looking at the specs listed and see that you have the battery listed as 14.8v 3000mAh and 120 watt hours of power but the one in the picture is 16.8v 12000mAh and 200 watt hours. Is the by any chance the extended range battery? Or are the specs in the article wrong? If the specs listed for each are correct, that would be the hour flight time battery… awesome!

    • Tobin Fisher Post author

      Reply

      Which article are you referring to Joe? Those specs sound pretty weird and definitely not our battery. We achieve the one hour flight time with a more efficient (larger swept area) rotor set, not by changing the battery.

  • Don

    Reply

    Will this unit come with an ac charger and a cigarette lighter charger?

    • James Squires

      Reply

      It will only come with a wall charger. Cigarette lighters won’t carry enough voltage to charge it properly. You would need an inverter to charge through your car charger.

  • Joe

    Reply

    Tobin, those are the numbers printed on the battery pictured in this post.

  • Joe

    Reply

    Good to know about the rotor set though. Look forward to hearing more about that. Thanks

  • Ian Phillips

    Reply

    Many thanks for clearing that up James, I just thought it would only happen towards end of battery life.

  • Joey Morelli

    Reply

    James,

    Thanks for the reply. A little more detail please – how long is the stand-by time when the battery is connected but you do not fly it? You said it is longer than 20 minutes…but HOW LONG?

    Thanks

    – Joey

  • Joey Morelli

    Reply

    James,

    Also…I plan on having 3 batteries (one flying / 2 backup). Does each battery purchase come with a charger or do I have to purchase a separate charger for each battery? Batteries will be $65 – how much are the chargers?

    Thanks.

    ~ Joey

    • James Squires

      Reply

      Extra batteries will not come with their own charger. We have not yet worked out a price for extra chargers but will make sure to announce when we do.

  • Darrin

    Reply

    The odule for greater flight time. Is this going to be an extra once released or will it be standard fit? Just worried by getting in early on the pre order it will cost more in the long run buying the modules as they are released.

  • Darrin

    Reply

    How much of a bump can the unit handle before magnets release? Would hate to accidently bump into an object and crash because of separation of unit.

    • James Squires

      Reply

      Snap holds together very well in normal flight. In the promo video, you can see a mountain biker bump against Snap without it falling apart. But in general, you should really try to prevent hitting objects while in flight. The magnets will help in preventing permanent damage to the components if you do crash, but you might end up losing a great shot. We will also be coming out with a beefier object avoidance accessory later this year.

  • Beyonce

    Reply

    Super inotimafrve writing; keep it up.

  • Gizmo2001

    Reply

    Hi,
    When are the batteries going on sale please so I can order a couple more?.
    Mega excited to get mine but I know I won’t be getting it till probably September as I only pre ordered on the 11/03/2016 so I will jealously watch all the vidoes that other people post when they receive thiers.
    Great design & specs & extremley pleasing to the eye!!.

    • Charlie - Vantage Robotics

      Reply

      Hi Gismo2001 – Batteries will be going on sale in ~6 weeks. We are in development on a new website that will support orders for all of the accessories.

      Thanks,
      Charlie

  • Gizmo2001

    Reply

    Charlie,
    Great news!!.
    Thanks

  • Jack

    Reply

    Hi, will USB power packs like the Mophie 3000 mAh be able to charge the battery on the go? thx.

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