The Parrot ANAFI Ai was designed as a partnership with Verizon Skyward as the first 4G drone. With a radical design inspired by nature, the ANAFI Ai makes big promises on the quality and capability of this industry-targeted drone. Now available for pre-order.
Parrot, the French drone manufacturer, is looking to change the game connectivity-wise with the release of the 4G connected drone. Currently available for pre-order, the ANAFI Ai is reported to ship later this month. Marketing for the Ai is targeted towards the commercial sector. Photogrammetry, mapping, inspection, and surveying are what the ANAFI Ai was designed to do – and the price reflects that. The pre-order price is $4,000. The IPX3 water-resistant ANAFI Ai also has a unique camera system that features a set of stereoscopic cameras on either side of the 48 MP main camera, allowing for 360 obstacle detection. Parrot is utilizing the open-source app, FreeFlight, for the smartphone side controls and Verizon 4G LTE for the main connectivity.
Feature Overview of the Parrot ANAFI Ai:
The Parrot ANAFI Ai ships with the equipment below from authorized resellers in late January (available for pre-order now for $4,000)
- (1) Parrot ANAFI Ai drone
- (1) Parrot Skycontroller 4
- (1) Hardcase
- (1) International USB-PD Fast Charger
- (2) USB-C to USB-C cables for charging and pairing
- (2) USB-C to Lightning cables for IOS device connection
- (1) Extra set of propellers
- (1) Gimbal protective cover
The inclusion of a hard case for the Parrot ANAFI Ai makes for a solid kit for any commercial use. Parrot has a long list of partners that are a part of their ecosystem for the ANAFI Ai: DroneLogbook, Skyward, PIX4D, UgCS, Rapid Imaging, Survae, Dronelink, High Lander, QGroundControl, Aloft, Measure, DroneSense, Textron Systems, and Hoverseen to name some. With an open invitation for others to partner with them as well.
The Parrot ANAFI Ai has 4G connectivity that works with any phone that has a 4G compatible SIM card, which means the drone could have an unlimited range. Much like every aspect of this drone, there is an enterprise-grade option that includes a bunch of other features as well. Parrot partnered with Verizon and Skyward, a Verizon Company, for enterprise-level 4G LTE connectivity. Skyward is a commercial UAV software plan that utilizes the Verizon network and some of the leading drone software companies; like Pix4D, InFlight, and DroneDeploy. Packages are available from $25 monthly to $998 annually, with custom enterprise levels available as well. By setting up this 4G package with a dedicated 4G company, connectivity should be consistent; anywhere someone with a Verizon cell phone plan has 4G LTE, the drone should too. The service for the drone should be something Verizon has accounted for and with the Skyward company managing it, you have experts available for drone-specific connectivity issues. In areas without 4G, you are left to the backup Wi-Fi connection built into the ANAFI Ai and controller. If you bought this drone for the 4G connectivity and can’t utilize that main feature of the drone, it could severely limit your use case. The 4G radio, a Fibocom L860-GL 4G LTE module, used in the ANAFI Ai is compatible with over 28 frequency bands in the 4G spectrum- that’s 98% of the frequencies used around the world.
Regardless of the service provider, the 4G connectivity provides connection capabilities unprecedented in the history of drones. Flying behind a building is no longer a dangerous feat with a signal loss warning awaiting you. Instead, your connection will be as reliable as right in front of you. Successful adoption of this technology could change the FAA’s mind about beyond visual line of sight (BVLoS) operations, which currently would be illegal. Potentially even increasing the possibility of remote operations; that is remote as in conducting an inspection or other operation from the office instead of the field. Parrot’s software for the drone automatically switches between Wi-Fi and 4G when needed, measuring signal strength every 100 ms. Other automation for the 4G connection includes monitoring congestion on the 4G network where the ANAFI Ai measures packet loss, latency and adapts the throughput based on those metrics. Video streaming in 4G is fast too. The ANAFI Ai has a reported latency of 300 ms with video and controls secured using SRTP/DTLS.
The backup Wi-Fi connection system is fairly standard. Wi-Fi connectivity has a range of 9 km on FCC mode and 4 km on CE mode with the Skycontroller 4. The transmission system adapts across four directional antennas, each with a gain of 2.5 dBi. While not the range you get from the 4G connection, it will still work as well as every other drone on the market today.
4K Camera and the Stereoscopic Camera Pair:
As is the industry standard for drones in any sector; consumer, professional, or commercial, a 4K camera is standard on the Parrot ANAFI Ai. The main 4K camera is a 48 MP, 1/2-inch CMOS camera. With 8000 x 6000 effective pixels, the imagery that can be captured by this drone is fantastic, on paper. It also features a 14 EV dynamic range when set to HDR mode for vivid imagery in any light. ISO ranges from 50 to 6400, about the same as a small DLSR. The lens is a 24 mm equivalent focal length with an aperture of f/2.0. This makes for a fairly wide-angle view, but the low f stop may lessen sharpness if it is fixed- the spec sheet does not specify. It features a digital zoom of 6x, with lossless image quality at 4x at 1080p and 2x at 4K UHD. It has a 6-axis gimbal that’s both electronic and mechanical. The electronic EIS gimbal has 3-axis (pitch, roll, yaw) of control; with the mechanical gimbal also being 3-axis of control. Videos can be shot in standard, P-Log, or HDR mode in 4K UHD or 1080p. The Frame rate is variable from 24/25/30 to 48/50/60 in 4K UHD or 24/25/30 to 48/50/60/96/100/120 in 1080p. Only in HDR mode is the frame rate limited to 24/25/30 fps.
The Parrot ANAFI Ai’s autonomous flight utilizes a stereographic camera set on either side of the main image sensor for obstacle avoidance. The cameras have a horizontal field of view of 110º and a vertical field of view of 311º. These sensors are mounted on the mechanical gimbal, allowing for them to rotate in the direction of flight. This means the drone can see 360º around itself with this one sensor system. This system is also utilized in the photogrammetry mode, allowing for the Ai system to map surroundings while using the main camera to record imagery. Stereographic camera systems have been used for this purpose in both manual controlled flight and AI flight before, but not many commercially available systems use them. A paper in 2017 used a stereoscopic pair of cameras to improve first-person view flight in human-controlled drones even. The use of stereoscopic cameras is a well-researched technique – it’s just not heavily utilized in currently available drones with most stereoscopic vision systems available as addable modules. By utilizing this technology, the ANAFI Ai is capable of indoor flight where the stereopair of cameras. The data needed for velocity and orientation are done by these cameras, measuring and mapping in real-time and utilizing reflected light from LEDs integrated into the stereopair for low altitude flight. Crazy and awesome. The level of technology packed into the Parrot ANAFI Ai is astonishing and hopefully, all will work as designed.
With AI being part of the name, ANAFI Ai, I would have expected much more focus on the AI characteristics of the drone. Instead, it’s lightly mentioned throughout the specification and white paper. One cool example Parrot mentions in the technical specification is the AI’s ability to find the size, height, tilt, azimuth, and plumb of a tower antenna autonomously while doing an inspection. This optimizes the inspection process by removing a series of measurements checking the physical calibration of a cell tower into one process. This is utilized in combination with the PIX4Dinspect platform. The AI is also used to calculate optimum flight plats in the autonomous photogrammetry mode. The promotional video demonstrates the feature by creating a bounding box for the modeling and then telling the drone to capture that area. That’s it, not flight path creation on the user’s end. With any of the autonomous flight features, the ANAFI Ai’s AI utilizes stereoscopic cameras to create an environmental model of its surroundings. This helps the drone know where major objects are without visually seeing them. This technology not only helps the drone avoid collisions but also reduces the weight and number of sensors onboard. By reducing the number of sensors needed for autonomous flight, the drone has few points of failure. This simplicity in hardware and innovation in software makes for a beautiful piece of technology. The AI is fundamentally part of the obstacle avoidance, target following, and several other flight modes on the ANAFI Ai. The AI uses 30 to 50 Mb/minute of data to update the imagery and metadata that the AI elements that feed the machine learning system.
Cybersecurity and Programmability:
“Cybersecurity by design,” Parrot says it collects no data, except as the user allows. They utilize a WISekey Secure Element (FIPS140-2 compliant and CC EAL5+ certified) to perform cryptographic operations to secure any communication from the ANAFI Ai meeting GDPR standards. Parrot makes a big deal about this feature of the drone, likely due to the enterprise/industry-focused design of this drone. The French company, Parrot, is one of the US Government’s approved drone companies and I expect the ANAFI Ai to be green listed by the D.O.D.’s Innovation Unit as well. With a 4G connection, the ANAFI Ai checks the operator’s authentication via a 5-part pairing process and a 3-part Strong Authentication process when setting up the drone. The ANAFI Ai uses TLS, DTLS, and SRTP protocols to stream controls and video to and from the drone with the Skycontroller 4 remote. Parrot even runs a bug bounty program to keep the drone at the forefront of security practices.
The Air SDK (software development kit) lets you or your company develop your software for the ANAFI Ai unobscured. The SDK allows for access to all sensors, connectivity interfaces, and autonomous functions when programming your missions or programs. Sensors (IMU, GPS, TOF), cameras, video streams, connectivity (via Wi-Fi, 4G, or USB), depth maps, occupational grids, and obstacle avoidance trajectory generations are all accessible. Onboard Linux processes can be added as well. Parrot has also included a Ground SDK for ground control station features. The GCS framework allows for developers to create IOS or Android applications for control of the ANAFI Ai directly from the smartphone. Again, with all onboard features available for use. The standard ground control station software is the open-source FreeFlight 7 application which is based on the OpenFlight BSD-3 license software. This means any additions you want to include “stock” on your company’s install can be standardized across everyone very simply. In addition to all this, Parrot has the Sphinx software available as well. Olympe is a framework for the ANAFI Ai that allows it to run programs written in Python, the most popular programming language out there. You can write these python programs for command and control, camera controls, automate recording, syncing metadata, or whatever else you might need. The Olympe framework can connect to your real ANAFI Ai drone or a simulated one in Parrot’s Sphinx. Sphinx is Parrot’s 3D photorealistic simulation software that allows for operators to practice controls on the drone without having to risk crashing the ANAFI Ai itself. Sphinx simulates the drone, firmware, sensors, and a realistic environment. It uses Unreal Engine for 3D graphics and Gazebo for the robotics simulation. This is one of the coolest features that comes with the drone. Much like DJI’s simulator for training, Parrot has stepped up to this level as well. The parrot ANAFI Ai is also compatible with MAVLink and GUTMA protocols. If you are using a ground control station already, like QGroundControl, there is no need to change your current workflow. The possibilities are endless with the Parrot ANAFI Ai.
With the ANAFI Ai is the Skycontroller 4, a completely redesigned controller just for the 4G capable drone. It has many high-end features that one would expect on a commercial drone, such as the micro-HDMI port for broadcasting or FPV flights. The video stream is decoded on the Skycontroller 4, allowing for real-time broadcasting in 1080p, 30 fps through the Micro-HDMI port. Compatible with devices up to 8 inches, such as the iPad Mini, the controller connects to phones or tablets via a USB-C or Lightning ports. Very similar to the way DJI controllers have short cables that don’t get in the way. IP5X dust resistant, the Skycontroller 4 holds a similar visual design as the ANAFI Ai it controls.
Handling and Design:
The Parrot ANAFI Ai features a unique design that optimizes airflow to cool the drone while being sealed enough for operations in light rain. The IPX3 rating means it can withstand rains and winds up to 31 mph (50 km/). It has a maximum speed of 38 mph (17 ms) forward and 36 mph (16 m/s) laterally and backward. Operationally, it can handle in winds up to 31 mph (14 ms) so the IPX3 rating is appreciably excessive for the drone. Climbing speeds are lower at 9 mph (4 m/s) ascent and about 7 mph (3 m/s) descent. Handling should be great with 300°/s of control on the pitch and roll axes and 200°/s of control on the yaw. A hands-on test would be great, but as this drone is still not released, we only have promotional material and specifications to go on. Aerodynamics is heavily emphasized on the ANAFI Ai, attributing much of the design to biomimicry, Parrot looked to prove the design with a multitude of aerodynamic simulations. The results show how the ANAFI Ai has better propulsive efficiency than traditional designs. The propellers feature a rippled leading-edge that give them a 66% figure of merit (a measurement of power input vs power output) that rivals a larger propellor. It’s even quieter! Coming in at 71.5 dBSP at 1 m, that’s almost 5 dBSP quieter than the Skydio 2.
Size and Weight:
The Parrot ANAFI Ai drone features folding arms to reduce the travel size of the drone. The folded size is 11.9 x 5.1 x 4.6 inches (304 x 130 x 118 mm) and 12.6 x 17.3 x 4.6 inches (320 x 440 x 118 mm) when ready to fly. It weighs in at 1.98 lbs (898 g), right around the average 2.2 lbs (1000 g) for drones of this size. Of course, for enterprise-grade drones, this is on the smaller and lighter end of the spectrum. A direction high-end enterprise drones have been going, at least for drones that are not designed to carry a payload. This is where the use case will make or break the Parrot ANAFI Ai. If any type of payload larger than a few grams is needed, the ANAFI Ai isn’t your drone. Parrot has provided a great deal of information on the flight characteristics of not just the overall vehicle, but also every sensor and part individually as well. Even specifications on indoor flights are noted. A feat that most manufacturers recommend against.
Designed specifically for the ANAFI Ai, the Parrot smart batteries have a capacity of 6800 mAh in a 3-cell LiPo package. This provides the ANAFI Ai with a great 32-minute flight time. They charge via the embedded USB-C port, making charging effortless. They also feature a wintering mode, that initiates after 10-days of inactivity where the battery discharges to 60% for storage. Fantastic for battery health on an enterprise-level because you no longer need someone to ensure the batteries are set for storage. Parrot says storage mode is good to keep the batteries in storage for up to a year. The white paper for the ANAFI Ai drone has 3 pages dedicated to just the battery, but these are all the important details for most.
With a pre-order price tag of $4,000 for the Parrot ANAFI Ai, this drone would be on the high end of the cost spectrum for a consumer drone. However, for the enterprise or professional market, it is a steal. Enterprise drones regularly run up through the tens of thousands of dollars and the ANAFI Ai is on the cutting edge of drone technology. It’s hard to say if the drone is worth the cost before the release, but the Parrot ANAFI Ai is a very promising drone.
The ANAFI Ai is a uniquely designed, enterprise-capable 4K drone from Parrot. Packed with cutting-edge research from Parrot; the ANAFI Ai offers AI-assisted technologies that improve almost all characteristics of the drone. The 4G connectivity provides unparalleled connectivity of the drone allowing for safe and effective BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) missions if the FAA allows. While the unique camera system, a proven technology that is ready for mainstream adoption and use, allows for indoor autonomous flight with a 48 MP main camera providing a remarkably detailed image. The built-in autonomous photogrammetry mode provides simple to use tools for the sophisticated technique at 3D model creation from images. Mapping, inspections, and surveying are also simplified by the ANAFI Ai drone and the PIX4D library of software. While open-source software can be used as well, like the FreeFlight smartphone app, for control of the ANAFI Ai. The drone is compatible with most major programs and protocols, meaning you don’t need to change your current workflow or programs to integrate the ANAFI Ai into your fleet. The Partnership with Verizon’s Skyward allows for superior 4G connectivity and reliability in use. The Parrot ANAFI Ai seems to be a safe drone to bet a pre-order on, even at the $4,000 price point. The ANAFI Ai looks to be a promising enterprise-worthy drone from Parrot.