As DJI cements its dominance in the high-end camera drone market, a number of companies are exploring new niches that DJI doesn’t touch. One is the cheap “selfie” drone, something that you can fit in your pocket or purse and launch from the palm of your hand. The Dobby drone from Zerotech, which retails for $399, does a really nice job of nailing what makes this category fun and useful.
Because it weighs less than half a pound, you don’t have to register the Dobby drone with the FAA. The wings fold into the body, making the whole unit about the size of a bar of soap. It fit easily into my pocket and was a snap to unfold.
Never worry about finding a landing spot
The nicest feature of the Dobby is being able to launch and land it from the palm of your hand. When you’re out in the wild trying to use a drone, it can often be tough to find smooth ground free of obstacles to use for takeoff and landing, especially when you’re working with a tiny drone that doesn’t have much clearance from the ground.
With the Dobby, you press one button on your smartphone to start the rotors, than just toss it out of your hand to initiate a hover. When you’re done with your aerial selfie, put your palm about six inches under the Dobby, and it will automatically come in for a landing. I tried this a half-dozen times and only had it freak out once, which for a drone is pretty good.
Computer vision is becoming commoditized
Dobby, like the Hover Camera and DJI Mavic, uses computer vision software to identify and track you. That makes operating a lot easier since you can launch, establish the subject, and then just walk. Of course the Dobby doesn’t have obstacle avoidance, so you need to make sure the area around you is free of potential accidents.