Year End Update

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Year End Update

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Dear Vantage Community,

We wanted to share some important behind-the-scenes updates before capping off a great year. Since launching Snap in September, we have improved the product by leaps and bounds, and we are on track to deliver Snap in late Spring 2016. We have some challenges ahead, but couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the opportunities within our reach.

To start, we want to clarify one thing about Vantage Robotics and pre-orders. Every penny from every pre-order is held separately from our working capital. We are a privately funded company, not a crowd funded company. We will only invest your pre-order funds when we enter full production. We have not, and will not tap into those resources for payroll, engineering, prototyping, testing, marketing, or any other non-manufacturing expense.

Since launching, we have worked to refine the product so it has nearly its full range of capabilities. Through hundreds of hours of flight testing, we have identified  small reliability issues and are fixing them one by one to improve the robustness of the product. Lastly, with the transition to manufacturing coming soon, we have invested in reducing the part count, simplifying assemblies, and designing out challenging features, with the goal of reducing manufacturing risk.

We are also thrilled with the coverage Snap received upon launch from top-tier publications like Wired, Outside Magazine, TechCrunch, Fast Company, and The Verge.

With that said, let’s dive into some updates about Snap.

Testing

Moab Testing 2

We took Snap on the road for some testing days in Moab, Utah. The test unit helped confirm many of the design improvements we will outline below. Unfortunately, the test unit did not have the new 4K camera integrated, so the footage from Snap was not ready for sharing with our community.

Product

Our product development goals for the last three months have been (a) improving reliability and robustness, (b) adding the autonomous flight capabilities, (c) improving video quality, (d) designing and fabricating our custom 4k camera, (e) creating our smart battery electronics, and (f) incorporating all of these updates into a final industrial design. Our progress towards these goals is outlined below.

Improved Reliability and Robustness

We logged hundreds of flight hours over the last three months and discovered a few issues necessitating design changes. The top issues were robustness of the gimbal and the pods over time to cyclic loading and impact.

The-Snap-Flying-Camera-Gimbal-1024x683

 

Improved Gimbal Design

We have updated the gimbal design to fix issues with image quality, gimbal robustness, and fatigue life of the flex circuit connecting the camera to the processing electronics. The changes improve the robustness of the gimbal in crashes and the image quality due to the stiffer construction.

Updated Spoke Design

We love the original metal-spoke design, but we are considering a modification that utilizes carbon bottom spokes, which can absorb considerable impact energy by buckling on impact. Carbon also offers amazing stability, as it does not plastically deform like steel, so it will not stretch. We look forward to sharing this design solution in our next update.

Snap Gets Smart! Improved Autonomous Flight Capabilities

We’ve significantly added to and improved upon Snap’s autonomous flight capabilities in the last three months; Snap can now consistently perform two tracking modes and two pre-planned flight operations, in addition to a full range of manual flight capabilities. The two pre-planned operations include Out-and-Back and Orbit. The two tracking modes include Virtual Wire and Air Tripod.

In addition, we’ve also added the Smart Yaw control for keeping controls relative to the user, independent of yaw orientation (i.e. – you tilt the phone to the right and Snap always goes right, whether the camera is pointed towards you or away). We developed an in-flight mag-bias tracking algorithm to let Snap improve its orientation awareness quickly in flight.  We also added Auto Ground Avoidance, so Snap automatically stays one meter off the ground to avoid collisions.

Improving Video Quality

Getting top-quality video from a tiny quad is quite challenging (which is presumably one of the reasons why no one else has done it!). In addition to the previously mentioned mechanical gimbal improvements, we have also made a number of innovations on vibration isolation techniques, introduced a novel-canted propeller design for significantly tighter yaw control, integrated the gimbal gyro into the flight controller for improved yaw estimation and control, and improved the gimbal control software, which now hits +/- 0.025 degree angle tracking.

Custom 4K Camera Development

IMG_0006

 

The biggest improvement in video quality is yet to come. This month, we are finally integrating our 4k camera system into the quad design. We have been working on the 4k camera board sub-module, and while is has been a long road, it is finally ready for testing.

You can see one of the first 4k tuning images from flight ready boards below. We are quite pleased with the minimal distortion we have already achieved.

DCIM100MEDIAAMBA0030.

We are currently integrating this camera into our new gimbal and frame and can’t wait to show you what it does in the air.

Smart Battery

Smart Battery_1_5

We have worked to create a smart battery PCB for doing state of charge estimation, cell balancing, charge level indication, battery circuit protection, and a capacitive touch sensor for improving the hand launch. The board firmware, schematics, and layout are all done.

Bringing It All Together – Snap DVU

SNAP exploded.312

The updated fuselage design shown above incorporates the final industrial design with necessary considerations for injection molding and assembly. With this new design we have made a number of significant improvements in both performance and manufacturability:

  • Customer removable and replaceable gimbal for repair or future upgrades.
  • Removable SD card located under the battery, as planned.
  • Cleaner battery connector design.
  • Lighter and tougher ultrasonically welded and bonded construction.
  • The entire assembly is now water resistant.

Summary

We hope you’re as excited as we are about our progress — your support has been crucial. The pre-order numbers are a true indication of the demand for a flying camera that is stunning, simple, smart, and safe. As we mentioned earlier, we believe we are right where we need to be to deliver Snap in late Spring 2016.

Please visit us at CES if you are attending. Though we don’t know our exact location now, we will be announcing it before the show.

Thank you again for your support,

Tobin, Joe and the Vantage Robotics Team

  • Bernard Shaw

    Reply

    As a short film creator and wedding videographer we would love to have a Quad that is so precisely controllable and SAFE that we could use it indoors. For example many shooting locations and wedding venues have high ceilings that would afford dramatic overhead moving shot sequences. However, safety, controllability and liability issues might totally preclude this use. We feel that one major market direction in this increasing crowded product design market is just such a Quad like yours. Do you agree that ultra controllability in just such a very small light unit like yours might be a major innovation in this field. We do! Love your product.

  • Graeme

    Reply

    Can’t wait – you guys have done some truly remarkable work. Well done!

  • Jason Hatfield

    Reply

    Thanks for the update, great to see all the hard work going into improving upon the original design! Really looking forward to getting my hands on it and I’m stoked you added waterproofing.

  • Eric

    Reply

    Very excited about these updates that improve quality and seem to make it something that will last longer. Can’t wait to get my hands on one as soon as they are ready. Submitted my preorder just last week. I especially look forward to seeing stable and beautiful 4k aerial footage. Thanks!!

  • Scott C. Kennedy

    Reply

    With the updated fuselage, does that mean the camera/gimbal module is waterproof too?

  • Peter Herweijer

    Reply

    Great news guys, you made my day with this update. Thanks for sharing.
    Merry Christmas, a healthy and happy 2016 from The Netherlands!

  • Jacopo

    Reply

    Great job! Cannot wait to see some aerial footage taken with the upgraded camera and gimbal. Are you planning to unveil some details about the thrust modules for an increased flight time of 1 hour and the automatic obstacle avoidance device anytime soon? I would like to know if these two modules will work just fine together on Snap. You might consider to put the range extender in the final box? The limited range is the only flaw for a complete out-of-the-box experience. Thanks!

    • Charlie - Vantage Robotics

      Reply

      Thanks Jacopo. We will be releasing information about the other flight modules, obstacle avoidance and the range extender over the next few months. The range can be extended with a DSM controller and we will be developing other accessories that will also help extend range.

  • Tim

    Reply

    Late Spring 2016 seems forever, but I agree that these product updates make it easier in my trying to be patient. Having a good performing, reliable product is more important than cranking them out early, so keep making the progresses, and keep the blog post active so we know what’s happening. I’m drooling with anticipation!

  • carmelo

    Reply

    Great update! I’m excited of the new development your group did. I’m more excited getting my snap drone now. But I’m even more patient to see all the upgrades done first before it’s actually QA/QC-ed and shipped out to me.

  • Adam

    Reply

    Really glad to see an update and we are anxious to see the video with the new camera!

  • Mike

    Reply

    Sounds awesome and worth the wait, I have ideas for this unit to be utilised in an industry where it could carry out tasks which normally come with risk to life and limb. The versatility of its design allows it to be used where no other competitors quad can conveniently be used. Keep up the good work and thanks for the update.

  • Chris Choate

    Reply

    Making the entire assembly waterproof is HUGE! Ordered mine back in October, can’t wait.

    • charlie

      Reply

      Hi Chris – Snap will be water resistant, not waterproof. We have updated the website to reflect this. We apologize for any miscommunication on that front. The updates to the design have made Snap considerably more water resistant. Thank you so much for your order. We appreciate your support.

  • Francis

    Reply

    With the latest update, does it mean that Snap will be waterproof? Thanks.

    • charlie

      Reply

      Hi Francis – Snap will be water resistant, not waterproof. We have updated the website to reflect this. We apologize for any miscommunication on that front. The updates to the design have made Snap considerably more water resistant. Thank you so much for your order. We appreciate your support.

  • Paul Emus

    Reply

    Where is it being manufactured?

  • Wally Rogers

    Reply

    Are you able to add Intel’s RealSense real-time depth-sensing capability for collision avoidance?

    • Charlie - Vantage Robotics

      Reply

      Hi Wally – We don’t have a lot of information to share at this time about obstacle avoidance, but we are working hard on an add-on module that will make use of LIDAR for this purpose. We will be releasing more information as we get closer to production. Thanks.

  • Francis

    Reply

    Thanks for the respond Charlie. I have a follow up question. I would like to fly Snap over the water filming my kids doing water sports, but I am afraid of loosing it if it falls in the water. So my question is, if Snap falls in the water will it float and survive? Is it sufficiently water resistant for this kind of situation? Thanks.

    • Charlie - Vantage Robotics

      Reply

      Thanks Francis. That is certainly our goal. We plan to release a “life jacket” of sorts for flying Snap over water and are working hard to make Snap survive exactly the situation you describe. We are not ready at this time to say that Snap will survive an extended bath. We will provide thorough updates as we have them. Thanks!

  • Thor

    Reply

    Am anticipating the release of the product more and more, since my order last September. I know that over that period there have been a number of (seemingly killer) engineering changes. Is there any chance that we might see some of those changes/modifications on the website or in the Pioneers Club updates? The anticipation is killing me (and I would assume, others too) — in a great way. Thanks for the hard work.

  • Joseph DeFilippis

    Reply

    Hi,
    Great product, very tempting, but I will be using this product for filming fishing off of boats.
    Make a waterproof unit and Im all in on purchase.

    Thanks for listening
    Joe

    • James Squires

      Reply

      Thanks Joe. Snap will be water resistant. It can fly in light rain and even take a splash. Just remember that salt water is really corrosive, so you will have to clean it up if you crash it into the ocean. Snap does not currently float, but we will be making an accessory for this later this year.

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