As we've seen with our phones and the advent of digital assistants like Alexa and Google Home, the future may be voice-controlled. Thus, it only makes sense that this permeating technology would inevitably combine with another quickly growing technology: drones. Years ago, UAVs activated with the sound of a voice still seemed like science-fiction. Now, they're reality.
The road to voice-controlled drones has been an interesting one. On October 18th, 2016, Amazon was awarded a patent for an “Unmanned aerial vehicle assistant”. The patent claims that this device would be able to respond to a user’s voice commands and be small enough to carry in a bag or pocket. The patent goes on to say: “the disclosure is described herein as a system and method for controlling a UAV with simple voice commands to cause the UAV to perform one or more tasks”. It states that possible uses for this device would include finding a lost child in a crowd and aiding the police.
Meanwhile, drone enthusiasts developed their own solutions to make up for the whole in the market. People with the skills and know-how built their own voice-controlled drones from scratch or by modifying pre-built drones. In 2016, Lukas Biewald with oreilly.com wrote an article called How to build an autonomous, voice-controlled, face-recognizing drone for $200. In it, he explains how to program a prebuilt drone to respond to voice commands. If you’re into DIY drones and coding, you might want to check it out. DIY site Instructables also hosts a few tutorials on designing a voice-controlled drone.
However, if that isn’t up your alley, then you’re in luck. The wait is (almost) over. Earlier this month, for the whole world to see, Yuneec announced the first ever voice-controlled drone. For those unfamiliar, Yuneec is one of the leaders in electronic aviation. Based in China, Yuneec was founded in 1999 and has been releasing award winning aircrafts for years. Their Mantis Q is the latest in their electronic aviation legacy. Made to be energy efficient, this drone can last 33 minutes in the air at a constant speed of 15.5 MPH and retails at $499.99, making it one of their least expensive models. You can make the Mantis Q turn on, take off, take pictures, record video, and land with the sound of your voice. It has not been released yet, but it is available for pre-order in the United States.
I am a writer and an artist based in Georgia. Specializing in illustration, graphic design, and video art, I love to explore the new ways technology intersects with art. I think drones have done amazing things for photography and video art, making what would previously be costly and difficult more accessible. As a complete novice, it was only recently that I saw what independent artists could do with their drones, and I continue to be impressed by the sights that drones are able to explore and the images they can capture. Instagram: @tyesha.ferron