back to article Capture your late-night handbrake turns with this 'autonomous' car-chasing camera drone

An American camera drone startup has come up with an eye-opening new feature for its products: automatic car following. Skydio, a Californian upstart that makes, as its blurb says, "flying tools that free your hands and mind" (aka small autonomous aircraft fitted with cameras), has declared that its Skydio R1 quadcopter is now …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    A petrolhead selfie stick

    Just to complete the worldview for those who think it revolves around themselves.

    It may have a positive effect though - will make the idiots who would be interested in this do even more idiotic things. That will hopefully result in removing them from the gene pool via the Darwin award route.

    1. }{amis}{

      Re: A petrolhead selfie stick

      Sorry but no, idiots like this seldom manage to just remove themselves from the gean pool usually they succeed in taking an innocent bystander or 2 with them.

      I will always maintain that your life is your own to do with as you wish, but gambling with others lives should attract the full weight of the law.

      1. wolfetone

        Re: A petrolhead selfie stick

        Top Tip: Keep yourselves safe on the road by considering every other road user an idiot. This means you won't be as surprised when they do something stupid, and you give them a wide berth if they're doing something Darwin award winning.

        1. amanonthestreet

          Re: A petrolhead selfie stick

          Top Tip: Keep yourselves safe on the road by considering every road user an idiot, including yourself!.

          1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

            Re: A petrolhead selfie stick

            With all those idiots driving around maybe you should consider getting off the street.

    2. A K Stiles Silver badge

      Re: A petrolhead selfie stick

      Either Darwin, or the constabulary identifying the individuals from the online shared video and either extrapolating speed from passing street furniture separation / car model and rpm sound, and requesting the owner's assistance with their investigations.

      1. Red Ted

        Re: A petrolhead selfie stick

        Ah, like the President of the Japanese Ferrari Owners Club, who filmed himself driving his Ferrari at speeds significantly above the posted speed limits and then sold copies of the video. The police purchased a copy of the video and used it as evidence for his subsequent prosecution!

  2. Little Mouse

    I'm curious - What do these devices do if they lose sight of said vehicle, and are also out of range of the controller?

    Do they just keep on going? Try to return to default location? Or what?

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Also do they look out for bridges, trees, pylons, high buildings, etc, that might just be close to the road?

      1. }{amis}{


        Not from this manufacturer but FliteTest were messing around with a simar system and it seemed to do well enough even when they were trying to break it: Tricking the Smartest Drone

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Also do they look out for bridges, trees, pylons, high buildings, etc, that might just be close to the road?

        Depends. Was the AI written by Tesla?

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Depends. Was the AI written by Tesla?

          We will know for sure after we read the next article about "drone rams a fire engine at speed".

    2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      My hope is, like an escaped/stray dog, they will find another car and follow that home instead.

      Mummy can we keep it?

  3. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge


    Will use these to tail people rather than engage in high speed chases.

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Cops

      Why would they bother buying amateur kit like this when there'll be plenty of army surplus real drones on the market soon?

      SWAT: Death From Above. (Drone-Strike Edition)

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Cops

        there'll be plenty of army surplus real drones on the market soon?

        Shirley, you don't mean Blighty's Watchkeeper Drones? I wouldn't if I were you - not fit for purpose.

  4. Roger Greenwood

    Police are the obvious users

    Send drone towards miscreant. In the civilised world it would then land on top with a magnet and a tracker allowing the chase car to back off. In other places attempt to shoot out the tyres?

    Speed more important than range. I bet someone has already done this but I missed it.

  5. Chozo

    THe Chase Is On :)

    The possibilities for both law enforcement and miscreants involved in a pursuit is terrifyingly fascinating. Drivers being able to see around the next blind bend or gauge traffic flow and successfully shoot the gap at a junction will make for some Hollywood worthy car chases.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: THe Chase Is On :)

      Miscreants would also need top cover drones to intercept any drones plod is using.

      High ground speed + strong head wind would suggest a 100MPH+ requirement for a couple of hours to be useful. not going to be cheap or small.

      1. Mr Sceptical
        Black Helicopters

        Re: THe Chase Is On :)

        Dammit, they've stolen my idea - I thought a remote controlled model plane with video downlink would be a useful traffic avoidance tool years ago!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It won't end well.

    Drone meet Bridge.

    1. Vulch

      Long time ago the ITV company I worked for decided to invest in a company that was strapping broadcast quality film cameras to big RC helicopters. They decided to do an item for the local news about it so set off with a news crew and the drone operator in a proper Castle Air helicopter and the drone flying below them along a valley. Unfortunately, this being before YouTube, the footage from the helicopter of the drone saying hello at speed to the viaduct everyone had forgotten was there isn't online and the film from the drone didn't survive the 16mm camera on the drone being converted to shrapnel.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Advance warning system?

    If these things could be made to fly directly above the car they are tracking, at a suitable altitude and with a suitable camera, they could provide advance sighting of plod parked in a lay-by ahead. Until the battery died or you drove faster than the drone could manage, of course. So maybe not practical, but maybe some day.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Standby mode

    Give it a low-power "surveillance" mode, so you can leave it sitting on the fence at night, and if some lowlife makes off with your pride & joy it can follow them while calling the police.

    1. JassMan Silver badge

      Re: Standby mode

      Sorry to ruin your dreams, but leave it on a fence and it is more likely to be nicked than the car. Possibly wrapped in tinfoil by the car thief who then takes it with him as he drives off in your pride and joy.

      There are already loads of GPS stolen car tracking systems already on the market which interface directly with antennae fitted to police cars. These have the advantage of lasting as long as the car battery, and many have reserve batteries in case the thief disconnects the real one.

  9. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Stalker's wet dream

    Alexa? Tell drone to follow <insert name of famous person>'s car

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: Stalker's wet dream

      Not just famous person lots of ordinary people get stalked.

      Or follow spouse / girl/boyfriend around if you suspect them of cheating or want to control them.

      Lots of nasty possibilities.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Stalker's wet dream

        Lots of nasty possibilities.

        Exactly... someone following you or your child/spouse/friend around to find out where they live, work, go, etc. Probably the nasty ones will be early adapters of this. The only problem for the drone driver is range. How long will it fly?

        Icon: Closest thing to an anti-drone shotgun blast...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stalker's wet dream

      Alexa? Tell drone to follow Pink Panther's car.

      That's the first thing I would do with this tech.

      I mean I've heard of rhinoceroses and tigers, cats and mink but a pink panther?

      1. Little Mouse

        Re: Stalker's wet dream

        A panther that is positively pink? Think!

        (Confession: For years I had no idea what they meant by "One hand only, truly original".)

    3. Adam 1

      Re: Stalker's wet dream

      > Alexa? Tell drone to follow <insert name of famous person>'s car

      Alright, which one of you smarty pants was discussing flooring options with your better half?

    4. MyffyW Silver badge

      Concerned of Llantisilly

      Alexa, how do I construct an electronic counter measures device for my car?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stalker's wet dream

      Alexa? Tell drone to follow <insert name of famous person>'s car

      Alexa: Drone at 5 o'clock - 5 rounds, rapid.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really? This is a marketing point now?

    I was doing this with an unmodified 3DR drone at least 5 years ago to video parts of our trip out the back of beyond.

  11. spold Silver badge

    I'm just seeing Inspector Clueso - follow that car!

  12. Nick Kew

    From a past era

    Surely this is precisely the kind of gizmo that featured regularly in the stories of a certain era. James Bond springs to mind, for instance. And Mervyn Peake's Titus Alone (1959) featured drones that would track you for totalitarian law enforcement.

  13. [email protected] Silver badge

    Nothing new.

    Various organisations have been using these for years - although they are normally attached to rocket motors and a few kilos of HE or other assorted noisemakers and used for taking out AFVs, softskins and the odd aircraft that doesn't get out the way quickly enough...

    Although I believe can be quite challenging to pop into your local Wallyworld and pick up an off-the-shelf Strela or Hellfire...

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