Earlier this week, Norwegian startup Staaker launched its first drone. And understandably plenty of major publications took notice. For once, this was a tried and tested new entry to the market, not a concept to be crowdfunded or a prototype in the making. The company was formed in 2013 after one of the founders was frustrated with the lack of footage from a day on the slopes. Three years and 50 prototypes later, it’s clear that no shortage of work has gone into perfecting this self-flying camera drone.
Staaker has its sights set on the extreme sports photography market, which certainly has space for a leading competitor. But it’s a little different in terms of its inner workings. The team at Staaker are promoting this as the “next evolution” of personal filming. It doesn’t just track your movement, they say. It predicts your movement.
“We use all the data [collected] from the tracker to predict what you are going to do next,” said CEO and founder of Staaker, OJ Seeland. “It picks up subtle signs and reacts to them.” Clearly, Staaker is hoping to lay down a marker for the rest of the market. “Staaker will win any test against our competitors and we invite all of them to challenge us for a test or review anytime, anywhere. We will be there.”
Fighting talk. But this drone can fly up to 50 mph, shoot you from infinite angles, and has five different follow modes. The idea is to capture your greatest adventures, whether they’re on the mountain, in the ocean, on the river or on the road.
The Staaker follows the trend of several drone manufacturers, in that it doesn’t come with a built-in camera. Instead, users can attach a GoPro Hero 3, 3+ or GoPro Hero4 camera. When the drone lands, the gimbal retracts to prevent the camera from hitting the ground. Clever.
The first extreme sports drone out of Norway is easy to use and foldable for easy travel. Over the past few years it has undergone extensive testing, everywhere from the Arctic Circle to Hawaii and most places in between. In news that is likely to appeal to those skeptical of pre-ordering a drone before its release, Foxconn, the world-class manufacturer responsible or many Apple and Microsoft products, will put together Staaker’s drones ready for delivery in December 2016.
How about price? Currently, Staaker is available for pre-order at $1195, over $600 below the standard retail figure that it’s expected to reach.
We put a few questions to Staaker founder and CEO OJ Seeland.
Norway is seen by many as an extreme-sports enthusiast’s playground. This tied with the fact that Scandinavian engineering is respected the world over, makes for a powerful combination.
“Norway is a great place to develop a drone. We do take a lot of pride in our work, so something that’s not well tested or doesn’t deliver on our promises is simply not good enough,” said Seeland.
We were also curious to know why the team had decided against crowdfunding – something that’s prevalent with plenty of drone startups today. “We have come much further than normal crowdfunding campaigns,” said Seeland. “And also we didn’t want to make a Kickstarter video, we wanted to show off what you can produce with our drone. Our launch film shows that in a much better way – Almost every drone shot in that film is filmed with our prototypes.”
This thinking certainly makes a lot of sense. Especially when you factor in some major stories of spectacular failure across crowdfunding platforms. Remember ZANO’s fall from grace, and more recently the Lily drone, which despite raising over $30 million in pre-orders, has seen its delivery date continually pushed back.
Certainly, Seeland doesn’t want to go through any of that drama. “We want to make the best possible product for our customers, and of course we want to build it into a large company.” They definitely seem to have put it through its paces. “We have learned a lot from testing around the world. For example, in Svalbard it’s really hard to get the drone to point correctly due to the magnetic declination and its proximity to the north pole. We also saw how salt water spray from large waves effects ball bearings over time when filming surfing in Hawaii.”
And for those that see extreme sports photography as one niche too far? “We believe that Staaker can be used for much more than just action sports. For example, filming your daughter’s first bicycle ride. Now you can use both hands to help her but still get amazing footage of it.”
The company has just released previews of each of its flight modes. You can check that out on the Staaker Youtube channel.