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NAB 2015 Drone Review

With news departments chomping at the bit to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to augment their news coverage, the 2015 NAB Show featured the largest gathering of professional drone manufacturers yet.

16:9 debuted the Movcam Stabilization System, a lightweight gimbal stabilization system created to provide image stabilization for vehicle-mounted rigs. At launch, the Movcam mobile stabilization system is compatible with two drone systems, the DJI Ronin and the Freefly MōVI.

AERIALTRONICS presented its Altura Zenith drone with a Blackmagic Design Micro Cinema Super 16 sensor camera mounted aboard. The aircraft can carry a payload of up to six pounds and provides a flight time of up to 45 minutes. Users can program GPS-assisted flights into memory, or the aircraft can be controlled via a tablet along with an RF joystick.

(L to R) Karsten Carlson of Quadrocopter shows off the Freefly Hexacopter to Alan Guthrie, Tom Oja and Stan Carter from the Educational Media Foundation.COLIBREX provides antenna RF measurements, mast inspections and site surveys for broadcasters utilizing a specially adapted and calibrated, remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). The navigation system proves high reproducibility of measurements based on precise flight positioning and orientation for antenna radiation pattern measurements.

DJI unveiled its Phantom 3 quad-rotor drone, which is available with a 4K camera or 1080p camera. A live HD view is seen at the dedicated controller, and three-axis camera stabilization is built-in. Both models of the aircraft also provide 12 megapixel still photographs. The camera records to micro SD cards of up to 64 GB in capacity.

DSLR PROS showed one of the few winged unmanned aircraft in the drone area, the Trident Scout. It can fly at very high speeds (40 to 60 mph) for extended periods of time, resulting in long flight distances. It has vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities, so it does not require a runway.

FREEFLY SYSTEMS unveiled its ALTA UAV hexacopter, designed to carry up to a 15-pound payload, and can be unpacked and deployed in just five minutes. It can fly RED, ARRI and similar- sized cameras, and can carry Freefly’s MoVI stabilizing gimbal. The ALTA is guided by the company’s Synapse Flight Controller.

HARWAR INTERNATIONAL featured its Harwar-Mega series of UAVs, with a unibody design from carbon fiber along with magnesium and titanium alloys. Megas provide 1920x1080P video, which can be transmitted to the base station from as far away as six miles. The monitor on the control panel is a 9.7-inch LED screen.

A DJI Phantom 3 drone goes through its paces inside the flying cage at the DJI booth.HOBBICO showcased its HS109S X4 Pro quadcopter system, which is sold assembled and ready to fly. The 1080p HD camera is already installed, and a handheld touchscreen transceiver provides FPV (first person view) on the flight in real time. The X4 Pro can be manually flown or programmed to fly by itself. It weighs 2.3 pounds, and can fly for 30 minutes on the included battery pack.

HORIZON HOBBY presented its Blade Glimpse pocket-sized camera drone, which is small enough to be operated indoors or outside. Its Team View feature allows streaming of FPV video to multiple iOS and Android mobile devices at the same time, and can also record 720p video to a micro SD card. The drone can fly for six to eight minutes, and weighs less than two ounces.

IUAS featured the Voyager 3, a drone camera platform that can be flown by a single pilot, or in two- or three-pilot mode. It presents a dual GPS control system, failsafe to return and low voltage to return modes. The Voyager 3 sports a 360-degree gimbal for panning in any direction while in flight.

PMG MULTI-ROTORS showed its Recon:Octo X8 configuration, capable of carrying a 25-pound payload for more than 20 minutes. It is designed to mount a variety of stabilizing gimbals with cameras such as TYTO, TYTO-C, DJI Ronin, Canon 5D Mk III, Nikon D800, RED Dragon, Sony FS700, Canon C Series and other similarly sized cameras.

STAMPEDE featured an array of xFold drones, including the xFold Cinema, available with as many as 12 rotors and able to carry any DSLR as well as the RED, Sony F55, ALEXA M and similarsized cameras. The larger xFold Dragon carries a fully outfitted ARRI ALEXA and similar cameras, while the xFold Travel is designed for HDSLR-sized cameras. The xFold Spy is capable of mounting GoProsized cameras.

TURBO ACE showed off its Matrix Quadcopter, Infinity 6 Hexacopter and Infinity 9 Octocopter drone camera platforms. The largest model carries a 15-pound payload and can fly for 15 minutes. Also on display from Turbo Ace was its AllSteady 6 high performance gimbal system, providing quick and tool-less balancing for a large array of cameras.