Parrot Launches ANAFI Ai, The World’s First 4G Drone

BY Zacc Dukowitz
8 July 2021

French drone-maker Parrot recently announced the launch of the ANAFI Ai, the first drone to use 4G as the main data link between the drone and the remote control.

Parrot ANAFI Ai Launch Video

According to Parrot, this means that the drone will have enhanced transmission capabilities, enabling precise controls “at any distance.”

It also means it can stay connected even when flying BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) and going behind obstacles.

Parrot says the ANAFI Ai will be out in the second half of this year, but a specific release date hasn’t been announced yet. Parrot also hasn’t released any pricing information yet for its new drone.

ANAFI Ai Specs and Features

The ANAFI Ai was created for commercial applications, and comes with a new camera, airframe, and remote control.

Photo credit: Parrot

Here are the standout specs and features for Parrot’s ANAFI Ai:

  • 4G-enabled. The ANAFI Ai works with any 4G network and SIM card, allowing drone pilots to use it with their existing cellular plan or with a prepaid SIM card.
  • Encryption and security. The remote control and drone are paired with 4G using what Parrot calls a Secure Element, proprietary data encryption that “protects both the integrity of the software and the privacy of data transferred.”
  • Camera. 48 MP main camera and a well-stabilized 4K 60fps / HDR10 camera that provides P-Log color profile and an HDMI output from the controller.
  • Gimbal. Extended tilt range of 90° straight up or down.
  • Autonomous flight. ANAFI Ai has autonomous flight capabilities, though it’s unclear exactly how extensive they are.
  • Onboard SDK. Open-source SDK (Software Development Kit) allows end users to customize the drone to suit their specific needs.
  • Obstacle avoidance. Uniquely designed obstacle avoidance system can detect obstacles in all directions using stereo cameras to sense and automatically avoid objects.
  • Remote controller. Comes with Parrot’s Skycontroller 4, which works with a phone or tablet.

Unique Insect-Inspired Design

In addition to its 4G capability, a unique aspect of the ANAFI Ai is how its camera is positioned on the front of the drone’s body:

Photo credit: Parrot

This design was inspired by the positioning of eyes on insects, allowing the drone to have a greater range of vision without requiring extra sensors to be placed all over the drone’s body.

Open Source App and Kit

So that end users can have access to greater functionality and customization, the ANAFI Ai comes with an open software development kit (SDK), allowing programmers to create custom apps for flying it.

The Ai’s SDK also provides full access to the drone’s obstacle sensors and 4G connectivity.

In addition to the SDK for the ANAFI Ai, Parrot’s FreeFlight app is also open source, which allows developers to further customize it for their needs.

Photo credit: Parrot

Who Is the ANAFI Ai For?

Parrot seems to have a number of commercial use cases in mind for the Ai, including:

  • Public Safety
  • Inspections
  • Surveying and Mapping

The ANAFI Ai comes with “one-click photogrammetry,” which could be useful for all of the above applications.

Photo credit: Parrot

For inspections, the Ai could be especially helpful for long-range operations, such as inspecting power lines or rail lines.

Further emphasizing its value for inspectors, the Ai can provide “enough resolution for inspectors to observe 1cm details at 75m (250 feet) distance.”

Users can create highly accurate digital twins (digital representations of physical assets) with the Ai, which could be used for any industry that can benefit from duplicating an asset or piece of land digitally in order to study its details.

In addition to inspections and surveying & mapping, such industries could include construction, real estate, and aggregates & mining as well as accident reconstruction for public safety.

Photo credit: Parrot

Parrot’s Market Share

Despite DJI’s dominance, Parrot has managed to retain a stable—though relatively small—position in both the consumer and the commercial drone markets.

In the U.S., the company had a big win last year when its ANAFI USA was named one of only five Blue UAS approved by the Pentagon for government use.

This designation could help the company not only to secure U.S. government contracts, but also to secure contracts from big companies that are wary about using technology that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted.

Photo credit: Parrot

Despite the Blue UAS win, Parrot still only holds a sliver of the U.S. drone market.

According to a report by Drone Industry Insights (DroneII), Parrot drones only represent 2.5% of all drones registered with the FAA under the Part 107 rules, coming in fourth behind Yuneec, Intel, and DJI (which dominates the list at 76.1%).

Image credit: DroneII

All this being said, Parrot has continued to fight for its position in the drone industry, managing not to lose too much ground as competitors come and go.

And the ANAFI Ai, with its unique 4G capability and insect-inspired design, represents yet another salvo in the company’s ongoing struggle for commercial drone market share.

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