The Parrot Anafi AI launch video promises an unmanned aircraft for professional drone pilots. This message comes from the same company that warned us before to ‘don’t trust Chinese drones‘, and that asked us ‘do you trust DJI drones?‘ This begs the question, do we trust Parrot? Do we trust the French dronemaker to deliver this time and provide us with a real work-horse drone? One that is not flimsy like the original Anafi. and one that is not hampered by a limited WiFi transmission range. Let’s take a closer look.
The Anafi AI is for professionals, Parrot says. Can we trust them to deliver?
In its launch video, Parrot promises that the Anafi AI is “a real professional drone built for work.” Let’s take a closer look at their latest unmanned aircraft and see if we think we can trust the French company to deliver on its promise.
In the video, we can see the obstacle avoidance system rotating to help provide obstacle avoidance in all directions at all times. This feature is not only desired by pros, but commercial drone operators will surely appreciate the functionality when flying close to objects. For instance when they’re inspecting bridges. Parrot claims that the Anafi AI has obstacle avoidance in all directions. How good the system actually works is something we will have to test when we get to fly this new commercial drone.
The camera on the Anafi AI is stabilized by both a 3-axis mechanical and a 3-axis electronic stabilized gimbal to help create smooth video footage and sharp photos. The camera can shoot 48MP stills at a frame rate of one photo per second, which according to Parrot makes this drone ideal for photogrammetry and 3D modeling. The camera can be tilted -90° to +90°. The French drone maker however does not make any mention of a global or mechanical shutter on the Anafi AI, which makes me believe it likely doesn’t have one. So far the all-around favorite workhorse drone for photogrammetry has been the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 which does indeed have a mechanical shutter. This is important for operators who specialize in photogrammetry as it allows you to take photos while flying at a higher speed without having any risk of motion blur that occurs with the rolling shutters. Thus the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 allows you to get the job done faster. An important criterion for professionals. Parrot however claims that the Anafi AI will do the job faster than the Phantom. We will have to see how this pans out in the real world.
Parrot promises that “during the flight, ANAFI Ai sends the pictures to PIX4Dcloud directly,” which could be an important time-saver. However, it remains to be seen how realistic this is. Uploading potentially hundreds of hi-res images over a 4G network might take a lot longer than the 30-minute battery life that the Anafi AI offers.
You can fly the Anafi Ai with a 4G transmission which at least in theory would make the drone resistant to signal interference in urban environments. In case there is no 4G cell network available, the drone would use Wi-Fi with a likely much-reduced range. The ability to fly the drone over a 4G network will be very useful in situations where you can fly beyond-visual-line-of-sight or BVLOS. If it works well, this feature should be beneficial to drone pilots inspecting bridges, transmission towers, pipelines, etc., and also for first responders and the like as the drone’s range would only be limited by its battery life and not by the range limitation.
Parrot offers data security as an integral part of the Anafi AI which for many government and enterprise customers might be an important requirement. Not all other drones offer features like this. The dronemaker says that:
“Users have full control over their data. No data is shared by default without the user’s express consent. ANAFI Ai is compliant with the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and in some cases goes even further. For example, users can delete all data with 1-Click, easily maintaining control over what is stored.”
Parrot also promises that the Anafi AI can fly autonomously and in the video, they show a Skydio-like segment where the drone makes a 3D map of its surroundings as it flies forward and avoids the obstacles in its way. We will see how well the drone does this in real life but this could be an important feature for inspections that need to be performed on a recurring basis.
Parrot claims that it is the first dronemaker to make its piloting app open-source software and also offers developers “a Software Development Kit (SDK) to execute custom code in the ANAFI Ai drone during the flight. The SDK gives access to all flight sensors, including obstacle avoidance sensors, occupancy grid, and internet access.” This will allow enterprise customers to customize the app and the drone to fit their specific needs.
Lastly, the Parrot Anafi AI does not have any geo-fencing which might be important for some professional drone pilots who want to be able to deploy their drones quickly and without any hassle while taking full responsibility for where, when, and how they fly. Since this Anafi AI is geared towards professional drone pilots who should be well aware of the drone regulations this should not be a safety concern.
So do we trust Parrot to deliver a capable drone that does in fact suit the needs of professional drone pilots and operators? Well, it looks promising on paper and the company must have learned from the shortcomings of the original Anafi. I’d be curious to hear from people who have flown this new drone and actually used it for professional purposes when it comes out. It seems that Parrot might have a serious contender here with the Anafi AI, but as always the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Let us know what you think in the comments below. Are you excited to see the Parrot Anafi AI hit the market later this year?
Tip from Mr. D.: download the Parrot Anafi AI white paper here.
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