The folks at Airdog introduced me to a new experience, a bicycle with rear suspension. See, my own bicycle only has front suspension, I had never ridden this type of mountain bike before. If you are wondering what this has to do with drones, that’s exactly the point, it’s not. Not really.
Edgars Rozentals, the man behind the Airdog drone, and now the second generation ADII, met me with a spare bicycle on hand and off we rode to a nearby park to meet the drone. Edgars has a philosophy, you want to live your life, not spend your time at the controls of a drone. To that end, AirDog ADII doesn’t have a controller. Not really.
The second generation of their flying machine is currently a well working pre-production unit, I was impressed, and they’re hitting Kickstarter today to get into full production. Early backers can score one of a very small set of machines already in production, the rest of you will have to wait a couple months for delivery.
Putting lifestyle ahead of the technology is not a unique take on things, but AirDog accomplished it with their new drone. A capable, folding quadcopter with a simple to use control system is exactly what many manufacturers are shooting for these days.
AirDog ADII is a mid-size drone. It fits nicely into a backpack when folded with the propellers removed. The controller fits in your pocket, easily, or just leave it on your wrist using the comfortable strap. The drone is a well built machine, it’s mostly plastic, but feels very sturdy. It is a modular build, so it’s easy to repair if anything goes wrong.
Action on the front includes a full 3-axis gimbal, accepting a GoPro camera. I can’t deny that the gimbal looks like the gimbal on the GoPro Karma drone, but if the folks that made the camera think the design is good, I respect that AirDog did not re-invent the wheel, so to speak.
Powering the drone is a large removable battery, a Lithium Ion 5,550 mAh brick at 14.8 V. This powers your GoPro camera as well, so no worries about losing video, you’ll have to land before your camera runs dry.
Flight time is roughly 15 minutes – they say 10 to 20 minutes depending on how you fly – we certainly had no issues flying around slowly for near ten minutes with a battery reporting less than half life.
Flight control and characteristics
The controller for the AirDog drone is little more than a flight mode selection tool with appropriate start and stop buttons. They’ve called it the AirLeash, a wireless tether for walking your ‘dog.’ There is also a mobile app to visually access some of the GPS waypoint controls, but don’t expect any of the typical up, down, left and right joysticks.
Flight modes include a basic follow-me mode, set a waypoint route and more. Unlike the typical waypoint flight systems on many drones, AirDog does not just fly from point to point without a purpose. In our live testing, we used the waypoint flight mode, the drone combined active tracking with the route to ensure that we were in frame as much as possible, it worked quite well.
This tracking mode is the ideal solution for those locations that you frequent. For best results, you have to run the route ahead of time, setting your stop/turning points along the way. I think Edgars ran the same mountain biking route a dozens times that day, making this the perfect test bed and example of the best use of the AirDog ADII drone.
Taking to the AirLeash, a waterproof unit, you can select from a handful of experiences, or design your own custom mode. Mountain biking, hiking, surfing and more are preset, emphasizing that this is about living your life, not about managing a flying machine.
We did not have time to explore each of the modes, but, from hiking to racing, the drone will respond at different speeds up to 45 MPH. Edgars implied that higher speeds were possible, but not currently accessible with tracking modes in place. With sports like wind surfing on the list, the drone is able to handle side winds up to 30 knots.
The key to the AirDog drone is establishing a flight distance and height, as compared to the AirLeash. Using long range Bluetooth for connectivity, the drone tracks the controller, effectively keeping you in frame. Very effectively, actually.
Upon request, the AirDog drone also has a couple basic ‘normal’ drone modes. After all, sometimes you want to capture your surroundings and not just you enjoying the area. They are open to suggestion for other flight modes as well, so be sure to reach out if you have ideas.
Final thoughts on the ADII drone
Mostly sticking to the same frame and physical design from their first generation drone, AirDog focused on what matters for this update, functionality. Out of the box I was impressed with the ease of use and thoughtful flight features. Safety and emergency situation features were also well thought out, allowing you to halt all operations with a single button, fly directly to you with another.
The camera mounting is solid and fluid, I like how it is able to keep up with you on the move. Our demo day path could have been a little better planned out to get even better video results, but that may not be the point here.
In the end, I am very impressed by the AirDog ADII. In my opinion they are approaching the market from a brand new perspective, do your thing, your drone will keep up. It is easy to take a machine like the DJI Mavic Pro and make it operate in similar ways, or to manually fly to capture someone else doing fun things. That’s not the point of ADII, it enables people with any piloting skill level to take to the air and capture great action sports footage.
Putting a GoPro to use is a smart move, these are proven cameras that capture a nice wide field of view. The Gimbal is designed for your newer GoPro to sync in nicely, no need for awkward cables or attempting to depend on a wireless connection.
Stripping out unnecessary features, the AirDog ADII is in a league of its own. Proving the best tracking drone I’ve laid hands on to date.
AirDog ADII is launching as a Kickstarter campaign today. Get in quick to score an early bird special of $999. Prices bump up incrementally by one hundred until $1299 through the campaign. Final retail value coming later this fall will be $1500. Delivery is set for August for the earliest backers, October and November for the remainder.