As of March 1, consumers can pre-order drones from Apple that are smart enough to follow them around.
Chinese company DJI has partnered with Apple to offer its new $1,399 Phantom 4 drone, Recode reports. The flying machine has artificial intelligence software that allows it recognize everything from cars to humans and follow them. Earlier drone models have only been able to follow humans by connecting to a device held by the user.
The Phantom 4 is also equipped with an "Obstacle Sensing System" that's made up of two forward-facing sensors enabling the drone to dodge any obstacles in its path, while traveling at speeds of up to 45 mph. DJI is selling the Phantom 4 exclusively through its website and Apple.com, but will make the product available in Apple retail locations in Asia starting March 15, Recode reports.
The largest drone manufacturer in the world, DJI says it is the preferred brand of drones for roughly 70 percent of companies globally that use the flying devices for commercial purposes, like shooting video, mapping areas, and completing aerial inspections. It anticipates that the Phantom 4 will be used by outdoor enthusiasts who want to shoot video while doing things like running, skiing, kayaking, or surfing.
At the same time that drones are adding nifty new features like autonomous navigation, however, the unmanned aerial vehicles are becoming more of a security concern for governments around the world, the Guardian reports. The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority says it received more than 100 reports of drones flying dangerously close to airplanes every month, Gizmag reports. To prevent accidental collisions between drones and planes, the FAA is developing technology for detecting drones that are getting close to sensitive airspace.
In the U.K., 23 near-misses involving drones and aircraft have been investigated during a six-month period by the UK Airprox Board, with 12 deemed as having a "serious risk of collision," the Guardian reports. A quadcopter drone flying into a jet engine could result in something called "uncontained engine failure."
"Losing the engine is not going to cause an aircraft to crash because they are designed to fly with one engine down, but an uncontained engine failure is going to be different indeed," British Airways pilot Steve Landells told the Guardian. "That could be very serious indeed." Think high velocity bits of metal shrapnel flying every which way.
The F.A.A. is expected to test its drone detection technology for several more months before publishing a final report in August 2016.