The Skydio self-flying drone just got a huge camera AI upgrade

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Skydio's AI-powered drone is getting even more intelligent, with the self-flying camera now able to handle navigating across large bodies of water, as well as creating Hyperlapse videos. The new update also combines some of Skydio's earlier features, including Car Follow, for more ambitious shots that still don't require human control.

Skydio added the Car Follow ability to the drone back in May 2018. As with person-tracking, it allows the user to tag the vehicle and then have it follow that vehicle around, keeping it in the center of the frame. At the same time, it avoids obstacles potentially in its flight path, like trees or buildings.

This new update blends that original Car Follow technology with some of Skydio's new One-Shot cinematic skills. Added to the drone in September, the range – which includes Drone, Boomerang, and Rocket – allow for shots like the drone zooming out and then back in for a close-up, or circling in a perfect loop around the subject. Now, you can use those One-Shots while also following cars or other large vehicles, even controlling them from your Apple Watch.

The other part of the update which will please extreme sports fans is support for flight over wide bodies of water. Skydio wasn't entirely water-averse before now: it could fly over ponds and rivers without a problem. However the company did advise limiting that to water 30 feet across at most.

That's because it needed to see trees, rocks, or other structures on the other side of the water in order to orient itself, using the array of cameras and other sensors that stud the drone's body. This new software, though, updates the Skydio Autonomy Engine so that it can deal with much larger bodies of water. That includes lakes and even rafting.

As for exporting all that recorded footage, there's a new option there, too. A Hyperlapse export option now promises to blend the frames around the subject in the video, for what Skydio describes as "smooth, accentuated motion" while always keeping the subject in crisp focus.

According to the company, this new AI-enhanced export "hints at the direction we're going to be able to go as we lean into combining computational photography with autonomy that can move a camera for best effect," which is both promising and frustratingly teasing.

If you've got a Skydio R1 drone you'll be able to download and install the new firmware from today. Instructions on how to do that are in the iOS and Android apps. If you don't have the drone, meanwhile, the Skydio R1 is available for $1,999.