You may not be familiar with the name Zero Zero Robotics, but its foldable Hover Camera may ring a bell. Having finally started shipping the Hover 2 to beta testers last month, the company is already showing off a different kind of drone at CES -- one that was inspired by the V-22 Osprey military aircraft. As the name suggests, the V-Coptr Falcon is a V-shaped bi-copter that boasts an impressive 50-minute flight time -- a figure that should worry DJI, whose flagships only last for about 30 minutes.
The Falcon's excellent battery life is mainly thanks to reducing the number of propellers from the usual four to two, which translates to a much lower power consumption plus a lighter and more aerodynamic design. In terms of operation, rather than tilting the whole body to navigate, the two rotors tilt individually to do the job. When it's out of juice, you can simply swap the battery or fold the two arms down and take a break.
Much like the Hover 2, the Falcon uses front-facing stereo cameras for depth perception and obstacle avoidance -- as long as it's flying no faster than seven m/s. Actual camerawork is done via a 12-megapixel main camera (with a Sony 1/2.3-inch sensor) on a three-axis gimbal hanging below the stereo cameras, and this can capture video of up to 4K at 30 fps (or 2.7K for up to 60 fps or 1080p for up to 120 fps). There's eight GB of onboard storage, but you'll obviously want to add your own microSD card of up to 256GB.
Like its predecessors, the Falcon benefits from the company's visual-tracking algorithms for auto-follow features, and this is further boosted by software improvements on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon processor as on the Hover 2. You can pick one of the preprogrammed flight paths in the app for auto cinematic shots (with a handful of templates to edit with afterward), or you can go fully manual using the bundled controller, which offers a seven-kilometer transmission range and 2.5 hours of battery life.
Given the flight-time breakthrough and software features, $999 isn't too bad of a price for the Falcon, and it's certainly a more affordable option compared to DJI's Mavic 2 series. That said, we'd need to check the image quality before making further judgement: The Mavic 2 Zoom would make a good direct comparison with its similar (if not the same) 1/2.3-inch 12-megapixel sensor, albeit the lack of optical zoom. Hopefully we'll be able to play with a Falcon closer to the February shipping date.