Drone Cameras: Set to Explode?

A Parrot Quadcopter (Source: Amazon)

A Parrot Quadcopter (Source: Amazon)

Drones with cameras, also known as quadcopters or miniature unmanned aerial vehicles, have been around for years, and are steadily growing in popularity.  There are a number of leading quadcopter makers, including DJI, Parrot, Hubsan, and Walkera, which makes a drone that can be used with a GoPro camera.  The sales of drones are increasing amongst consumers who enjoy flying them, just for fun and to gain a better perspective on sporting events or outdoor adventures, such as the person catching the quadcopter in this image taken at the Head of the Charles Regatta.

Quadcopter at Head of the Charles Regatta (Arnold Reinhold)

Quadcopter at Head of the Charles Regatta (Arnold Reinhold)

However, The National Park Service (NPS) has banned drones in all national parks in the United States, citing a negative experience for visitors.  And along similar lines, a recent article in Popular Science outlined a newly launched, slightly controversial solution for stopping unwanted drones.

Camera drones can videotape their surroundings, to the delight of users, but to the dismay of certain people and organizations who would like to keep their privacy intact. Recognizing an opportunity, Rapere, the company that makes the “intercept drone,” has designed a quadcopter with 12 fast cameras that help it identify other flying objects to attack. The “intercept drone” then drops a tangle line onto the offending UAV’s rotors, bringing it down.

Rapere "Intercept" Drone

Rapere “Intercept Drone”

It’s not clear whether this product would be legal, or if it will even be sold, but it does seem to be getting attention for its unique solution to a new challenge. If Rapere does go into mass production, that bodes well for the production of camera modules, which will be needed in vast quantities at that point, ostensibly to both man the interceptor drones and to fill orders for the replacing the drones that they brought down.

Action Camera Race: Contenders Revving Their Engines

The race is heating up for action cameras – the waterproof, mountable kind that is found in many an extreme athlete’s hand or, more precisely, on a helmet or surfboard.  While GoPro is the industry leader, competition has become increasingly fierce.  In the past month, Toshiba and Garmin each announced an entry into the race, Toshiba with its Camileo X sports camera, and Garmin with its GPS-equipped VIRB camera.  Sony also unveiled a new, sleeker model of its Action Cam, which now offers GPS.  Other action camera manufacturing companies in the mix include the Contour, Swann, and Drift Innovation.

action camera image of skier

Action camera shot of a skier taken with a helmet-mounted GoPro camera.

These POV cameras, ruggedly built, have gained a spectacular following, due in no small part to the extreme sports enthusiasts who first embraced the GoPro cameras and who never hesitate to show off their bold adventures by sharing the videos with gusto on social media.  Legions of fans were inspired by these first-movers to purchase video camera toys of their own, and thus, a new niche market was born.

What is next for action cameras?  These compact cameras are quickly advancing in terms of image quality, functional technology, and overall capabilities.  It seems GPS is a new feature focus, along with streamlined design and improved photographic performance.  While the cameras are still improving, some think that they might be overcome by a different product all together.  For instance, in this Wired post, one staffer even decided that Google Glass would soon be advanced enough to replace existing action cameras with one worn on the face – a disruptive theory that, while interesting, doesn’t account for the need for a more rugged camera for the athletes that might plunge into the drink or the powder while recording, losing or smashing the Google Glass.

In any case, the customers in this growing segment truly value the quality of their filming and undoubtedly appreciate a camera aligned with precision so they can produce images with excellent clarity.  Action cameras in particular are fantastic candidates for active alignment because of the challenges in obtaining uniform focus in a wide angle application.  Whether you make action cameras, security cameras, or automotive cameras, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about active alignment and its advantages in your camera module alignment, assembly, and testing – it might just differentiate your product from the competition.