Parrot’s new ‘follow me’ feature keeps drone eyes on you

Parrot has launched a new ‘follow me’ in-app feature for its drones that makes use of visual tracking to allow the Parrot Bebop 2 to follow you everywhere, keeping you in frame for all those times you absolutely need to have footage as you scale a mountain.

The new feature is used from within the FreeFlight Pro app and combines the new visual tracking with your smartphone’s GPS and barometer.

Your smartphone handles all of the positioning, though you may lose some of the accuracy if your phone is without a barometer for vertical tracking, while the visual tracking supposedly mimics the human eye with algorithms to better differentiate between user and environment.

Images courtesy of Parrot

Images courtesy of Parrot

The feature provides two different modes of operation: auto follow and auto framing. The auto follow mode is essentially designed for getting the perfect footage of you whether you’re walking, running or climbing a mountain. Once you’ve set the flight altitude, distance from subject and video angle, you’re ready to go and the drone will follow along with you centrally framed.

Within the auto follow mode itself there are multiple functionalities that allow you to customise the shot to get the perfect shot. Perfect Side allows you to set a shooting angle that the Bebop 2 will follow by determining your position in regards to the angle, while Magic Dronies offers the choice of several pre-programmed movements including a 360 degree orbit around you or a ten metre high parabola over the subject.

The second mode, auto framing, is about turning you into a drone film director.

Using the advanced visual tracking algorithms, the Bebop 2 drone consistently keeps its target at centre of frame. The mode has you piloting the drone while its camera works without intervention to adjust the drone’s camera and keep your subject perfectly framed.

dditionally, while managing a stationary flight the drone will readjust on its axis and readjust its camera angle to follow the subject and maintain the framing.

Across both modes of operation the intention seems to be to open up the range of drone filming and give users the ability to film from perspectives that would otherwise be unavailable. The follow me feature seems to sort of act as a third-person Go Pro, giving pilots the chance to film themselves at their most eventful without having to strap a camera to themselves.

The ‘follow me’ feature is currently available for iOS within the FreeFlight Pro application as an in-app purchase for £14.99 after a 15 day trial period. The Android version will be made available in December.

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Juno mission: Jupiter’s magnetic field is even weirder than expected

It has long been known that Jupiter has the most intense magnetic field in the solar system, but the first round of results from NASA’s Juno mission has revealed that it is far stronger and more misshapen than scientists predicted.

Announcing the findings of the spacecraft’s first data-collection pass, which saw Juno fly within 2,600 miles (4,200km) of Jupiter on 27th August 2016, NASA mission scientists revealed that the planet far surpassed the expectations of models.

Measuring Jupiter’s magnetosphere using Juno’s magnetometer investigation (MAG) tool, they found that the planet’s magnetic field is even stronger than models predicted, at 7.766 Gaus: 10 times stronger than the strongest fields on Earth.

Furthermore, it is far more irregular in shape, prompting a re-think about how it could be generated.

“Juno is giving us a view of the magnetic field close to Jupiter that we’ve never had before,” said Jack Connerney, Juno deputy principal investigator and magnetic field investigation lead at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Already we see that the magnetic field looks lumpy: it is stronger in some places and weaker in others.

An enhanced colour view of Jupiter’s south pole. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gabriel Fiset. Featured image courtesy of NASA/SWRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

At present, scientists cannot say for certain why or how Jupiter’s magnetic field is so peculiar, but they do already have a theory: that the field is not generated from the planet’s core, but in a layer closer to its surface.

“This uneven distribution suggests that the field might be generated by dynamo action closer to the surface, above the layer of metallic hydrogen,” said Connerney.

However, with many more flybys planned, the scientists will considerable opportunities to learn more about this phenomenon, and more accurately pinpoint the bizarre magnetic field’s cause.

“Every flyby we execute gets us closer to determining where and how Jupiter’s dynamo works,” added Connerney.

With each flyby, which occurs every 53 days, the scientists are treated to a 6MB haul of newly collected information, which takes around 1.5 days to transfer back to Earth.

“Every 53 days, we go screaming by Jupiter, get doused by a fire hose of Jovian science, and there is always something new,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

A newly released image of Jupiter’s stormy south pole. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles

An unexpected magnetic field was not the only surprise from the first data haul. The mission also provided a first-look at Jupiter’s poles, which are unexpectedly covered in swirling, densely clustered storms the size of Earth.

“We’re puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter’s north pole doesn’t look like the south pole,” said Bolton. “We’re questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we’re going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?”

Juno’s Microwave Radiometer (MWR) also threw up some surprises, with some of the planet’s belts appearing to penetrate down to its surface, while others seem to evolve into other structures. It’s a curious phenomenon, and one which the scientists hope to better explore on future flybys.

“On our next flyby on July 11, we will fly directly over one of the most iconic features in the entire solar system – one that every school kid knows – Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said Bolton.

“If anybody is going to get to the bottom of what is going on below those mammoth swirling crimson cloud tops, it’s Juno and her cloud-piercing science instruments.”