CES 2016 Recap: Drones Soar to New Heights

Drones have been a hot trend at CES for a few years now, and every year they take up more space on the show floor. Of course, this year was no exception with new players getting in the game and new innovations stealing the show. Some of these new products aren’t ready to hit the market yet and are best thought of as concepts, but they give us an idea of what the future of drones might look like.


A New Design Trend for Aerial Drones

Over the past few years, the general standard when it came to the form factor of consumer UAVs has been the quadcopter style: four rotors attached to the body of the device. Though other form factors have been available for commercial purposes, we haven’t seen them much in the consumer category. This year, one of the pioneers in consumer drones, Parrot, announced a new fixed-wing drone due to be released late in 2016. The Parrot Disco looks more like a miniature stealth bomber than a consumer UAV, but this design shouldn’t intimidate even the inexperienced drone enthusiast.


The Parrot Disco has almost no learning curve. For starters, to get this drone off the ground all you need to do is toss it in the air and stand back. It features an autopilot and a host of sensors that control its flight. You can take manual control of it but the autopilot will continue to prevent any bad maneuvers that would cause a crash or stall. This drone is also ultra-light and has 45 minutes of flight time. Though the company didn’t share pricing details, I can’t wait to see the Disco hit the market later this year.


From UAV to AAV

When referring to drones in consumer tech we typically think of UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, but this year’s Consumer Electronics show had something new in store for us: the first personal Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV). What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s an aerial drone that would be able to carry a passenger for short to medium distances. The Ehang 184 allows a user to simply climb in, power it on, select a destination, and hit the “take-off” button. The 184 can travel at speeds up to 60 kilometers per hour at altitudes up to 11,000 feet.

Ehang 184

The drone’s automated flight features eliminate the risk of human error and work to avoid obstacles. A fail-safe system takes the necessary precautions to ensure safety should anything malfunction during flight. With that being said, it might be quite some time before we see the Ehang 184, or anything like it, out on the market. Given the amount of testing and safety regulation that the aircraft would be subject to, it’s best to look at this drone as a concept rather than a product you can expect to see on the market. In fact, we didn’t see the Ehang leave the ground during CES.


All in all, drones did not disappoint at CES this year. There’s room for so much innovation in this area, from new form factors to improved safety to new applications. I can’t wait to see what next year’s show has in store for drones. In the meantime, I’ll have to keep myself occupied by testing out the new models that are released throughout the course of the year.

By Mike Agerbo

January 12, 2016