Parrot’s New Drone Sets New Standards: ANAFI Ai, 4G Connected Robotic UAV [DRONELIFE Interview]

Parrot's new droneParrot’s new drone breaks new ground: the ANAFI Ai is the first 4G connected, robotic UAV – inspired by nature’s best flyers.

In an interview with Parrot’s Martin Line, UX and Marketing Director, the company’s pride in this newest offering is evident: and they have good reason to be excited.  The ANAFI Ai is the first commercial drone to be 4G connected, and it comes equipped with a stereo camera that works like a flying insect’s eyes – to see an avoid anything in its flight path.

“We really think that we’ll set new standards with this,” says Martin.

4G Connection… Encrypted

Parrot’s new drone uses 4G as the primary data link between drone and operator. This is a game changer for flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), as the drone can stay connected even when it flies behind a building or other obstacle.   The Secure Element embedded in the drone and its Skycontroller 4 protects the integrity of the software – and ensure the privacy of the data.  The 4G link between the drone and the user’s phone is encrypted.

“ANAFI Ai is connected in 4G – the first drone on the market to be connected.  You can fly in the city without WiFi interference, and it gives you the possibility to fly at any distance,” Martin says. “And, all of the features are in hand to ensure that the product is secure.”Parrot's new drone

Obstacle Avoidance Inspired by Nature

One of the most interesting features of Parrot’s new drone is their uniquely designed obstacle-avoidance (OA) system, which uses stereo cameras to sense objects and avoid them.

“We love to be inspired by nature – it took us some time to do obstacle avoidance, but we’ve done it now,” says Martin. “In nature, animals have two eyes to see everything.  ANAFI Ai has stereo camera that can move, looking down and looking up – when you are flying autonomously, the drone can look with stereo camera in the direction of the flight.”

“It’s all about autonomous flight for the future.  With only 2 cameras we can do obstacle avoidance in all directions – and fewer cameras means less weight.”

“By its design, Parrot’s new Skycontroller 4 is a milestone for the industry. Cumbersome cables are no longer required, and it enables the use of an iPad mini and all large smartphones. The controller also features an HDMI output, which allows streaming videos from ANAFI Ai,” says the Parrot press release.

Open Source

Parrot has been rapidly adding partners to the ANAFI ecosystem over the last few years.  Now, with the ANAFI Ai, Parrot claims an industry first in making the piloting application open-source.  “Parrot offers developers a Software Development Kit (SDK) to execute custom code in the ANAFI Ai drone during the flight. The SDK gives access to all flight sensors, including obstacle avoidance sensors, occupancy grid and internet access,” says a Parrot press release.

“Parrot was created around open source standards – there is nothing more secure or easier to use than open source software,” Martin says.  “We feel that by opening our platform, we give the opportunity for more minds to create and add to the platform.  We want to build a community to help the drone industry more forward faster.”

Additionally, says Martin, developers are able to add their own code specific to their use case – which makes the platform even more attractive to large enterprise customers with unique applications.  “For parrot,  ANAFI Ai is a drone that can be used for inspection – for every use case,” Martin says.  “We can’t do that by ourselves.  If you want to do that with a lot of accuracy, you need a specific flight plan: so we created an open framework to allow developers to work with us easily.  OpenFlight will allow you to quickly develop your own solution for your company: with maximum effectiveness.”

An Achievement 10 Years in the Making

Martin says that ANAFI Ai is the result of all the great ideas Parrot has been working with since they started developing drones.  The ANAFI Ai is a creation that embodies a company motto: Aristotle’s quote that “pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

“It’s not just a few lines of code,” says Martin.  “ANAFI Ai is an achievement of more than 10 years of drone development – from the beginning we’ve wanted to have a platform open to developers.  In our DNA we wanted to create something open to everyone, to make it easier for people to contribute and develop faster.”

“For us, the future is autonomous drones being able to achieve complex missions.  To do that you need computer vision, you need autonomous flight plans, you need to be able to modify and create and send images directly to your servers, with quick communication.

“The ANAFI Ai is lighter, smoother, easier.  It’s the achievement of everything we wanted to do for 10 years.”

Parrot’s ANAFI Ai will be available from qualified resellers in the second half of 2021.