The Smartphone Drone that Takes Photography to New Heights


This smartphone drone looks awesome. Over the Christmas break I vacationed with some friends down in Brazil and we went to the big tree lighting ceremony for the city of São Paulo. There were a few street vendors that were selling little helicopters for the kids. I was getting quite a few ground-level shots of the tree and the lights, but when I saw those little copters I thought one would be awesome. I would have loved to have been able to get some overhead shots of the festivities. If I’d had this little drone copter, called Zano, I would have been able to get those shots easily.

Ground-Level Shots Are Fine, But Sometimes You Need to Get Above It All

Part of the festivities at the tree lighting ceremony included a light show with dancing fountains. However, they were out in the middle of a lake and the shots I was able to get were somewhat disappointing, especially since I’m not a tall person. The Zano smartphone drone from Torquing Group would have been perfect.

I could have launched it over the lake and gotten close-ups of the fountains. I could have gotten awesome high and wide shots of the fireworks that they shot off and been able to get the crowds and the tree in the shots. Oh well, coulda shoulda woulda. There’s always next year.

The Zano Smartphone Drone is Another Great Kickstarter Product

I keep bringing up these Indiegogo and Kickstarter products for several reasons. First and foremost, I fully support innovation on the small scale and from the little guy. These are the guys that are taking more risks and bringing us products that, in my opinion, are just awesome. They’re also the guys/companies that listen to us the most during product development.

For example, Torquing is already developing new features and capabilities for the Zano smartphone drone, in response to requests from customers. Facial recognition, target tracking for moving objects, facial recognition, 180 and 360 degree panoramic shots and more are things they’re working on to make the product even better.

These additional features are known as “perks” or “stretch goals.” They’re unlocked when certain funding levels have been reached. The Zano campaign has reached its top funding goal, so they’re offering all sorts of nifty features. I’ll talk more about these later. For now, let’s concentrate on the basics.

What Exactly Is the Zano Smartphone Drone?

The Zano smartphone drone is a small battery-powered helicopter with four small motors providing lift and propulsion. The drone is controlled using the Zano app on your smartphone. Zano is so small that it fits in the palm of your hand. The body itself is only about 2.5 inches 6.5cm) on a side and it weighs less than two ounces (55 grams). It also has a five megapixels HD video camera.

How Does It Work?

The drone comes with two small, lightweight rechargeable batteries that can be swapped out quickly and easily providing power to the four small motors with propellers. You command Zano to fly from the app and it lifts off. You follow the action you’re filming. Using several built in sensors, Zano avoids obstacles in its flight path, allowing you to concentrate on filming and getting the perfect shots. These sensors include infrared, echo-ranging sonar, and an extremely sensitive air pressure sensor.

I’ve played around with, and destroyed, a couple of camera drones before. I got too focused on what I was filming and not enough with where I was taking the drone and ended up crashing it into things. From what I’ve read about Zano, that worry is a thing of the past.

The app also has joystick-like controls that allow you to take complete control of the drone in flight while filming. However, Zano has safeguards built in. Zano won’t leave your line of sight. If the control signal from the phone starts getting too weak, or the battery level starts getting too low, it returns to your smartphone.

Zano Comes In Multiple Colors

The Zano smartphone drone comes in four main color schemes — black red, white, and camouflage. There’s also a glow in the dark option so you can keep track of it in the night sky. It’s also got multi-colored landing lights to let you and others track in the sky and back down to the ground.

Prices for the Zano drone currently start around $190, which nets you the drone and a special limited edition hard shell case plus what they call ZANOfuel, a rechargeable battery pack that charges the battery in about 30 minutes and is good for several charges. There’s also a micro-USB adapter so you can charge a mobile phone.