Weeks after Sony applies, GoPro gets drone noise-cancelling patent

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Less than a month after we reported on Sony’s patent application for noise-cancelling drones to create havens of quiet in otherwise loud areas, GoPro has now obtained a patent for its own for racket-suppression tech.

GoPro to squelch drone noise as it’s made

The Sony plan relies on a network of drones beaming noise-cancellation frequencies to create fixed-position or moving bubbles of silence. The GoPro patent, by contrast, focuses on methods of squelching rotor, motor, and other sounds made by the drones themselves. The evident objective of the GoPro system is to rid audio tracks accompanying videos of the whining din that often renders them useless. 

Imagine shooting footage of gatherings, sports competitions, or cultural events and being able to hear their soundtracks rather than the giant mosquito buzzing.

According to the patent granted to GoPro’s application, the system involves a microphone that feeds noises emitted by the drone’s various parts into an audio signal filter. Those operational condition input parameters – aka clatter – serve as the craft’s sonic baseline while in flight. The audio signal filter then uses that to replicate the work of a Hollywood sound track mixer by measuring the strength of different sounds. Once it has, the system pivots to do the exact opposite of what that Hollywood mixer does: rather than balancing those, it offsets the entire ensemble into merciful, enduring silence allowing ambient audio to come through.

The patent also underlines the many ways the noises made by flying drones are monitored, and how the baselines formed from that data can be evolved or fine-tuned over time. Factors like motor speed, velocity, acceleration, thermal changes, and wind effects – among others ­– are all micced for sound (as it were).

Evolving and adjustable drone noise filter

Added up, it means a user will have a baseline operational noise profile of the drone composed during his or her first flight with the system. That default will be automatically updated or modified during future missions. The tech also allows pilots themselves to intervene and tweak parameters so that any additional, perhaps unexpected sound can be suppressed – or permitted through if automatically cancelled – according to their preferences. (After all, who doesn’t occasionally love the sound of really rude turbulence now and again?)

Of course, there are those clever fliers who have already devised work-around techniques for removing rotor whine from their videos. Most, however, require post-production adjustments or on-ground apps that reduce, rather than eliminate noise. Others resort to sleights of hand that would do a geek-magician proud. As described, however, the GoPro tech is apparently the first ever zapping the din before it’s even recorded.

Careful what you wish for…

Meaning, for some pilots, it will now be possible to fly above concert crowds and hear how astonishingly bad that warm-up band really was, or hover over the kid’s T-ball game and discover how precociously potty-mouthed the infielders are. 

Filters for those may be on the way soon.

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