Autonomous Drone Racing Kit Uses VR For First-Person View, Reaches Indiegogo Goal In An Hour

Autonomous, a company specializing in robotics and artificial intelligence products, recently began an Indiegogo campaign for its Drone Racing Kit. The modest $10,000 goal was met within an hour of launching, and the device is still gaining momentum.

The Drone Racing Kit features two drones, two controllers, flags, cones, and a backpack, in addition to two VR headsets. The headset itself is similar to Samsung’s Gear VR and Google Cardboard in that it slips over a mobile device (phone or tablet) and uses lenses to project the images three-dimensionally. The drones sport a camera that brings the user to the pilot seat with the mobile HMD, providing a first-person view of the remote-controlled device as it soars around a track of your own design.

The drones and HMD interface with your mobile device with a free mobile app you can use to challenge friends, schedule races, watch footage from other users and, view friend and worldwide leaderboards. Autonomous estimates a 7-minute flight time for the drones, and about 164 feet of controlling distance.

Because the devices are prototypes, full hardware requirements and a list of compatible mobile devices aren’t yet available. However, the company has tested its product using Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung Galaxy S6, and Samsung S7 smartphones. Autonomous doesn’t guarantee compatibility with all Android devices, so before you order, make sure you have a VR-capable phone.

The Autonomous Drone Racing Kit is available now on Indiegogo for $149 (the early bird special at $99 has already expired). The campaign has over a month left, and it already has double the funds of its original goal.

Derek Forrest
Derek Forrest is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes hardware news and reviews gaming desktops and laptops.
  • problematiq
    Seems like that would be a very motion sickness intensive thing to do.
  • artk2219
    Those look like Syma X5SC's, which will definitely give you motion sickness, but they are fun. You could also make your own kit by buying two of them, installing the Syma FPV app on your phone, and then rigging together some cardboard glasses :). But the $99 dollar pricing is pretty killer for those drones and kits.

    Update: My mistake, they're X8W's, but the X5SC's would also work, relevant X8W link below.
  • bit_user
    Title is misleading. Sounds like it's a kit for racing autonomous drones, but it's clearly not. Should be: Atonomous' Drone Racing Kit... or Drone Racing Kit by Autonomous...
  • gamebrigada
    Me and some friends attempted something like this. We gave up because of latency and wifi consistency problems. Even a basic compression on the drone side is complicated and provides a decent amount of latency, then throwing that stream into the wifi stack is just a pain in the ass. The amount of jitter in the frame latency is insane, and with some considerable latency in the stream. Wifi is simply not created for a full bandwidth stream with low latencies in mind. I started working on my own wireless protocol that simply doesn't care about dropped packets, but that project hasn't taken off. The proof of concept I setup was running at 720p using the extremely good raspberry pi on chip H.264 encoder, with almost a perfect signal the overall system averaged about 500ms of latency. Far too high for racing applications, and that's an unacceptably low resolution for "VR"
  • WFang
    This article (and the photo showing all the stuff) and also their campaign is misleading because only the super early bird and the $149 package comes with all the things. The $99 kit does not come with flags, cones or a bag/backpack . Their rep' on Indigogo also keeps talking to people about how the $99 kit does not include "VR Cameras" "like the super early bird" but I don't see "VR Cameras" mentioned anywhere, which adds to the confusion and makes me wonder if they mean the VR headsets are not included?

    Also, I reserved one based on the campaign text and the video, rushed because I wanted the $99 early bird, then noticed how it is missing a lot of the items, and then found out you can't cancel unless by the grace of the creator.. what a mess of a campaign.

    Still, the $99 could still be a good deal.
  • ChrisFromAD
    That's interesting, so instead of having a separate screen you can just use your phone's processing power to get the FPV experience. And why not, our phones these days have more power than the first computers that send man on the moon.