The Hover Passport Camera received a lot of attention when it was first released in 2016. The drone was safe and easy to use. The Passport’s camera was better than most selfie drones. The Hover Passport ($300) was designed to appeal to customers who might be intimidated by standard drones that have complicated remote controllers and exposed propellers. The new Hover 2 stays close to its roots, with a foldable user-friendly design. The foldable design is where the similarities seem to end. Hidden beneath the black shell of the ZeroZero Hover 2 is a killer drone with upgraded features and some fantastic innovations. I suspect that competitors like DJI, Parrot, and Skydio are starting to worry.
Hover 2 Innovation
The stand-out feature on the Hover 2 is the unique and innovative obstacle avoidance system. ZeroZero, the company behind the Hover 2, calls it “radar.” In reality, it is radar in appearance only. The system is actually a pair of stereo cameras that are used for sensing distance and identifying obstacles. Rather than try to pack the body of the drone with sensors on all sides like the DJI Mavic 2 ($1,249 – $1,499) and the Skydio R1 ($1,999), ZeroZero put the Hover 2’s sensors on a turret!
This upgrade is really quite ingenious, as it cuts down on the number of cameras by a factor of 4. While this saves cost and weight, it also allows for the drone’s processors to focus on only one pair of cameras. The camera turret simply rotates to face the direction that the drone is flying. Maybe equally impressive is that the obstacle avoidance cameras on the Hover 2 stow away inside the drone for a form factor that is compact and safe for travel. The sensors pop up only when needed for flight. Am I impressed? Yes, I am!
The Hover 2 pop-up “radar” obstacle avoidance looks amazing. Source: Hover
The Hover 2 Transforms
The second most surprising thing about the Hover 2 is that it transforms into an actual drone! More serious pilots can remove the shrouds and upgrade to flying with a remote. The base package for the Hover 2 does not ship with a remote, but there are two remotes available. The compact Palm Pilot remote has a 100-meter range, fits in your pocket, and includes a small built-in screen.
The Hover 2 with the fully-protective guards removed, legs added, and ready for BlastOff mode
The optional BlastOff remote extends the range of the Hover 2 to 5 km, besting the Parrot Anafi, DJI Spark, and DJI Mavic Air! When flying with the BlastOff remote you don’t get a built-in screen. Instead, you attach your smartphone, just like you would with a similar drone from DJI.
The Palm Pilot remote includes a built-in screen
Hover 2 Camera and Gimbal
Like the Zerotech Dobby before it, the original Hover Passport relied completely on EIS (electronic image stabilization) to stabilize the camera footage. Many drones in this class, including the Passport, Dobby, Yuneec Breeze, and Yuneec Mantis Q can only record 1080 video when stabilizing the footage. The new Hover 2 has a 2-axis gimbal that puts it in the same class as the DJI Spark, Parrot Anafi, and Skydio R1.
The tracking and obstacle avoidance of the Hover 2 appears to be on par with the Skydio R1 and better than what we have seen from DJI
[pullquote]Will the Hover 2’s flight modes work seamlessly? That’s an open question.[/pullquote]The new gimbal is a major upgrade. It will allow the drone to fly faster while maintaining stable video and it will allow smooth 4K video capture. The camera has a 1/2.3 inch sensor, which puts it in good shape compared to the competition. The f/2.2 lens is faster than most other drones, so it will need a good autofocus algorithm to keep things looking sharp.
The footage we have seen from the Hover 2 looks very smooth, but it does occasionally have a jumpy horizontal line show up. Artifacts can be caused by drone vibration and are more common on drones that rely heavily on EIS for stabilization. Hover’s Kickstarter page indicates that they are still making improvements to the video quality.
ZeroZero is stepping up when it comes to intelligent flight modes. They are currently categorizing them as Track Shots, Omni-Follow, and AutoFrame. Each category contains 4 to 5 modes. They all look to be centered around making it easier to frame pictures and capture stunning complex movements.
Will the Hover 2’s flight modes work seamlessly? That’s an open question. Even many of the automatic modes from DJI drones don’t work all that well. Maybe ZeroZero can step up and give us something that is really a joy to use.
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