Drones are fast becoming an aspect of everyday life, from delivery to surveillance.
In the next few years it is likely these drones will dominate the skyline, and as such new drone aviation laws will have to be drafted.
So what is all the hype? Why are businesses investing in drone technology?
To gain some further insight into the world of the drone Information Age was sent the Ehang Ghostdrone VR 2.0. It was a really interesting product that has significant, perhaps unparalleled security capabilities.
Unboxing and assembly
The Ehang Ghostdrone VR 2.0 comes with a number of accessories and requires a little assembly.
If you want to use them it is best to fit the rotor guards first.
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There is one for each of the four arms and they are simply fixed in place by 3 screws using the hex driver from the provided toolset.
The drone comes with 2 sets of rotors that need to be simply screwed onto the drone body.
As the rotors counter-rotate for stability reasons you simply need to ensure that the correct rotors are attached to the correct arm.
As they are colour coded either silver or black and only attach clockwise or counter-clockwise respectively it would take some ingenuity to get this wrong.
Next you need to add the 2.5Ghz and 5Ghz antennae to the VR head set, and that’s it. The drone is fully built.
The Ehang Ghostdrone VR 2.0 was provided with a backpack that is essential for moving it around.
The camera gimbal in particular needs to be protected in transport. Once in the backpack the system, even with two batteries, is relatively light and comfortable to transport, although it was a little bulky on the train.
Getting the Ehang Ghostdrone VR 2.0 ready
The Ehang Ghostdrone VR 2.0 drone comes with two batteries that need to be charged using the charger provided.
The charger is fairly quick and it took roughly two hours from 10%. The battery LCD display shows the charge level during the charging process, with each battery providing you with around 30 minutes of flight time.
You will also need to charge the VR headset via a standard micro USB port while you charge the batteries.
While you wait, you need to download the EHANG app from your relevant app store and watch the getting started videos hosted by the ever cheerful Jonathan.
Preparing for your first flight
Once you are all ready with everything fully charged it is time start flying.
Don’t forget to charge your phone or tablet that’s running the app as the system will not let you fly with low battery.
The start up is a procedure, first start the app, then the goggles and then finally the drone itself.
It was at this point that the drone informed me that it required an update.
The update is downloaded with the app so you will not be caught out in the wild needing to download the update over a non-existent network – it seems that every app update comes with a drone and gimbal update.
The app does provide feedback as to the progress but the drone update does take quite a while to be uploaded to the drone.
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Then I needed to update the camera gimbal but thankfully that process was much faster.
Once the goggles and the drone are ready and connected, the app asks you which flight mode you wish to enter.
For your first 3 flights, you are restricted to tap and fly so you can get used to the drone first.
With the drone placed on short grass facing away from me, I retreated back the stated 15 feet and entered the only available flight mode.
It is at this point I started to get a little frustrated. The app took a long time to acquire satellites and the feedback as to why it might need more than 9 satellites to fly in an open field was not clear.
Finally, a satellite image appeared and the take off button is displayed.
Flying the Ehang Ghostdrone VR 2.0 drone
I have to say once in the air the drone is fantastic. While in tap mode you can’t really use the goggles at the same time as piloting the drone as you need to see the controls but just hand the googles to a friend so they can use the goggles while you fly.
It is possible to set the limits in terms of vertical and horizontal maximum speeds in the app but I find that the defaults work well enough.
The drone is stable and holds a good static hover even in quite gusty conditions. The height achievable was really impressive and the accuracy of the drone positioning is surprisingly good.
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But the real joy of this drone is released in avatar mode.
By changing the control of the drone from sliders to the accelerometers in your device you are able to fly the drone and use the goggles at the same time. The drone control in avatar mode is incredibly intuitive, and has real world surveillance and monitoring applications.
The VR goggles
The goggles are fairly decent. Perhaps, in this age of 4K screens, I expected an unrealistic resolution for a drone.
The image is good if a little lower resolution that I would have wished for but the camera stabilisation and gimbal control via the goggles is absolutely fantastic.
I could only get the goggles to control the vertical angle of the camera and when you’re flying in Tap mode this can be a little irksome but once you have the full drone control via avatar mode it makes much more sense allowing you to understand the orientation of the drone.
I did feel a little let down by the app. I need to say I was using an iPhone 5S so perhaps a more modern phone would have helped. And, perhaps, the Android version of the app is better.
The app is not very good at letting you know what is happening and at times seems unresponsive. Also the iOS app uses wireless to connect to the goggles.
This means that if you live in a 3 or 4G dead spot like I do you do not have any data network while you are using the app.
>See also: Does the UK need a drone bill?
The app is constantly being updated and I expect it will get better and better over time.
Once the drone is in the air, however, and you are able to use avatar mode to harness the full capabilities of this drone, it is really impressive.
It’s a little noisy perhaps but the overall flight characteristics, especially the stability in the static hover, and the goggles delivering the real-time image are very good.
I have had a lot of fun flying the drone both on my own and with friends and family. Everyone has been impressed by the video and the effect altitude has on your perspective.
The new drones also are competitively priced at $899 MSRP; which includes the gimbal, the EHang 4K spherical camera and VR Goggles.