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Watch an autonomous drone deftly avoid obstacles

Just look at it dodge those trunks and branches.

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Skydio, an aerial drone startup, recently released an impressive highlight reel of its first UAV nimbly avoiding obstacles as it followed a group of cyclists during their ride through Menlo Park, California. Unlike the new DJI Phantom 4, which will simply halt its forward progress and try to fly over an obstruction, Skydio's unnamed prototype barrels right through them.

That's easier said than done, however. "There's essentially no margin for error," Skydio CEO Adam Bry told MIT Tech Review. "You can't stop and turn everything off, because if you do that, you crash. In fact, if anything goes wrong on any part of the system, the most likely outcome is that you crash."

Skydio's UAV pairs a forward facing camera with in-house developed vision-tracking software to prevent that from happening. This allows the drone to see, recognize and avoid obstacles in real time. These capabilities will be crucial as drones gain more autonomy and move into wider inspection and surveillance roles. While there's no word on when Skydio's prototype will actually make it to market, the year-old company has already raised $25 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz and Accel Partners.

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