Skydio's R1 Drone Expands to Apple Stores, Can Now Be Controlled via Apple Watch

by

Earlier this year, drone company Skydio introduced its first product, the self-flying R1 drone camera with advanced automation and tracking capabilities.

The R1 was designed to be the first fully autonomous drone, able to work without the need for a person controlling its every movement. Prior to today, using the R1 was as easy as tapping a few buttons in the Skydio iPhone app, and now it's getting even easier.

As of today, the R1 can be directed through a newly introduced Apple Watch app that provides one-tap controls and directives right on your wrist.


The Skydio Apple Watch interface provides quick access buttons to set the R1 to follow you or a friend as well as options for doing tricks and stopping flight. While there are no manual controls available via the wrist, the R1 operates largely on its own. If you do want to control it manually, you'll need to do so through the iPhone app.

MacRumors was able to give the R1 and the new Apple Watch app a try ahead of its launch, and it's as simple as Skydio describes. The R1 detects people in front of it, and with just a tap, it can be set to follow you, where it records everything you're doing as a sort of flying personal camera or photographer.

skydior1drone
The R1 is a hands-off action cam replacement that's fantastic for hiking, biking, skiing, and similar activities where you might want to capture action-oriented video without the hassle of controlling a drone.

What's great about the R1 is that it has complex built-in obstacle avoidance capabilities. We wove it through trees and watched as it artfully dodged trunk after trunk with skill that even some advanced drone pilots would be unable to match.

The R1 is able to avoid obstacles because it's outfitted with 13 cameras that can see in every direction and identify objects like trees, people, cars, and more, using that information to decide what to do and what to avoid.

skydior1applewatchinuse
Once you set the R1 to auto follow mode, it basically flies itself, and there are some neat tricks that Skydio has programmed into it, such as the Boomerang that sends it flying forwards and backwards to capture a unique video shot.

The Apple Watch app offers up little thumbnails of the people around so you can set it to follow someone (or yourself), and it uses the Digital Crown in a unique way -- a twist of the knob rotates the direction of the drone.

Because it flies on its own, the R1 can do a series of neat little tricks, most of which are executable from the wrist. There are options for Dronie, Rocket, and Orbit, for example.

A Dronie starts close and then zooms out and up for a birds-eye view of a scene, while a Rocket shot starts close and then zooms straight up. An Orbit shot, as the name suggests, spins around you slowly. The Apple Watch app also includes a feature to return the drone to back to its starting place at the iPhone and shut it down, so you can get a full flight from the wrist.

skydior1applewatchapp
Skydio's R1 basically flies itself and it needs so little interaction that it's simple to use right out of the box, even for those who have no drone piloting experience. All it takes is an iPhone for setup and it can be controlled with nothing other than the Apple Watch.

The R1 is excellent at obstacle avoidance, but it's still a drone and an expensive one at $1,999, so there are rules to follow. It can't be flown in windy conditions, and its cameras aren't able to detect thin branches as we learned during a crash, so caution needs to be exercised.

Skydio is continually improving the R1 drone with new features and further autonomous research. It's out of the price range of most people who would use it casually at this point in time, and it's not the most portable at the size of a pizza box, but the technology is worth paying attention to because this kind of autonomy could be the future of mass-market drone usage in a few years time.

Along with introducing a new Apple Watch app for controlling the R1, Skydio has additional news. Starting today, the R1 is available on the Apple online store and at select Apple retail locations. It can also be purchased from the Skydio website.

Top Rated Comments

Scottsoapbox Avatar
29 months ago
This will really help when I feel alone when I'm away from all the cameras I have placed everywhere in my home.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

cook cbs this morning

CBS This Morning: Apple to Make 'Big Announcement' Tomorrow Morning

Tuesday January 12, 2021 8:46 am PST by
CBS This Morning today shared a short clip of an upcoming interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook in which addressing last week's events at the U.S. Capitol, with Cook saying "it's key that people be held accountable for it." Following the clip, Gayle King of CBS noted that the interview with Cook was not specifically arranged to address the current controversy over Parler and other repercussions, ...
ipad pro 2021 mysmartprice cad

Allegedly Leaked 2021 iPad Pro CAD Images Suggest Few Design Changes

Tuesday January 12, 2021 3:38 am PST by
Tech blogs 91mobile and MySmartPrice on Tuesday posted a series of allegedly leaked factory CAD images of Apple's upcoming fifth-generation 11-inch iPad Pro. Rumors suggest Apple plans to announce two new iPad Pro models in both 11-inch and 12.9-inch versions, and today's images offer perhaps the clearest indication yet that Apple's next-generation iPad Pros will have minimal, if any,...
prototype iphone 12 pro

Prototype iPhone 12 Pro Shown Off in Photos

Wednesday January 13, 2021 3:39 pm PST by
Developer Giulio Zompetti, who often shows off prototype versions of Apple devices, today highlighted a prototype version of the iPhone 12 Pro. The iPhone 12 Pro is running an operating system called SwitchBoard, a nonUI version of the iOS 14 update that Apple uses internally. We've seen SwitchBoard on prototype devices before, as Apple uses it to test new features. Zompetti's prototype...
find my app safari post

Safari Allows Users to Enable Hidden 'Items' Tab in 'Find My' App Ahead of AirTags Launch

Wednesday January 13, 2021 5:45 am PST by
As seen in screenshots obtained by MacRumors in 2019, Apple's long-rumored AirTags items trackers are expected to be managed through the Find My app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Now, any user can get an early look at this tab. MacRumors reader David Chu today alerted us that the hidden "Items" tab in the Find My app can be enabled on an iPhone or iPad by typing in the link findmy://items in...
iphone x camera close

iOS 14.4 Will Introduce Warning on iPhones With Non-Genuine Cameras

Thursday January 14, 2021 8:07 am PST by
In the second beta of iOS 14.4 seeded to developers and public testers this week, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser has discovered code indicating that Apple will be introducing a new warning on iPhones that have had their camera repaired or replaced with aftermarket components rather than genuine Apple components. "Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple camera," the message will...
mac anti reflective coating issue

Apple's Anti-Reflective Coating Repair Program Still in Effect for Some MacBooks With New Mail-In Policy

Tuesday January 12, 2021 10:07 am PST by
In an internal memo obtained by MacRumors, Apple recently informed its network of Apple Authorized Service Providers that mail-in repair is now required for Mac notebooks with anti-reflective coating issues in the United States. The new policy went into effect January 4, 2021 and means that customers who take an eligible 12-inch MacBook or MacBook Pro exhibiting this issue to an Apple...
pioneer carplay wc5700nex

The Best Apple-Related Accessories at CES 2021

Wednesday January 13, 2021 1:16 pm PST by
CES 2021 is taking place digitally this year, and it hasn't been as exciting as in past years because many vendors have opted out. That said, some companies are still showing off some interesting Apple-related accessories that are coming out this year and that will be of interest to Mac, iPad, and iPhone users. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Pioneer Wireless...
Hue module dimmer switch

Philips Hue Announces New Wall Switch Module, Dimmer Switch, and Outdoor Light Bar

Thursday January 14, 2021 3:11 am PST by
Philips Hue has announced a new wireless dimmer switch module that lets Hue bridge owners directly control the smart lighting from their standard wall switches. The new Philips Hue wall switch module is the ideal addition to any Philips Hue set up. Installed behind existing light switches, it allows users to turn their existing switch into a smart switch and ensures their smart lighting is...
whatsapp wallpapers 1

WhatsApp Affirms User Privacy Following Backlash Over Data Sharing With Facebook

Tuesday January 12, 2021 6:39 am PST by
Following backlash after changing its terms and privacy policy to consolidate a significant amount of data sharing with Facebook, WhatsApp is now assuring users about the privacy measures built into its app. Last week, WhatsApp began informing users of updates to the app's terms of service and privacy policy. The updated agreements, which users must consent to in order to continue using...
apple racial equity justice initiative propel center render 01132021

Apple Launches New Nationwide Racial Equity and Justice Initiative Projects

Wednesday January 13, 2021 4:08 am PST by
Apple today announced a set of new projects as part of its $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) to help dismantle systemic barriers to opportunity and combat injustices faced by communities of color. Rendering of the Propel Center The projects include the Propel Center, a global innovation and learning hub for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), an Apple ...