We know you have lots of questions about Parrot’s new ANAFI Ai, the first drone powered by Verizon 4G LTE — especially now that it’s available for preorder from Skyward. I recently got to host a fireside chat with my teammate and cellular connectivity expert Francesca Stockton, as well as Parrot’s François-Xavier Charbonnel (also known as FX). We discussed the features of the ANAFI Ai, what makes this drone unique, and what capabilities a cellular network can unlock.
I’ve put together a few of the top questions we addressed, with answers from our experts.
1) Is Parrot ANAFI Ai designed for professionals or hobbyists?
Parrot designed and developed ANAFI Ai to cater more toward professionals. This drone is built with a uniquely-designed, alien-looking sensor system that offers omnidirectional obstacle avoidance and a 48 MP main camera. Its software will include a high level of automation, compatibility with apps including the Skyward InFlight mobile app, and advanced cybersecurity. Of course, ANAFI Ai also features Verizon 4G LTE connectivity. And to top it off, the whole drone features IP53 rain resistance (the exhaust vent at the top pushes air out, rather than sucking water in).
All of these features are focused on dedicated professional use. ANAFI Ai is designed for autonomous, highly accurate photogrammetry, and it will excel at use cases such as infrastructure inspections (more on that later).
That doesn’t mean a recreational pilot couldn’t use this drone. They would be getting a quality drone with a powerful camera for great imagery and videos. But it would be more cost efficient if a consumer bought a drone from a retail store instead.
2) What does it mean that Parrot ANAFI Ai integrates “Cybersecurity by Design?”
FX likes to say that Parrot ANAFI Ai is “a drone you can trust.” That’s more than just a slogan — Parrot sought to secure the whole workflow, from drone to system to network.
For one thing, Parrot partnered with WISeKey to integrate a secure element within the ANAFI Ai. FX explained that the secure element is like a safe that contains all the application keys, encryption certificates, 4G link security, and similar data. It stores and protects this sensitive information.
Parrot also follows the EU’s stringent GDPR regulations, as well as digitally signing pictures so users can be sure the data they collect has not been modified. And that’s just the beginning. To learn more about security on the ANAFI Ai, you can visit Parrot’s cybersecurity web page.
3) Why should I care about a drone with 4G LTE?
Almost every drone is “connected” in a sense: they are flown and controlled over some type of non-proprietary connection like Wi-Fi. This enables the operator to control a drone within range of the controller’s antenna.
When we talk about cellular connected drones like ANAFI Ai, we’re talking about a control station and drone that connect over cellular networks — the same networks that power our phones.
Right away, there are at least three major advantages for drones using 4G LTE over a Wi-Fi connection:
- Reduced interference – Because cellular connections are proprietary, they face much less interference from other devices such as home Wi-Fi networks, phones, and other drones.
- Massive control range – Because companies like Verizon have spent many years and billions of dollars building out 4G LTE networks, coverage is broadly available. That means you can control your ANAFI Ai nearly anywhere there’s cell signal, not just within range of your controller’s antenna. (Of course, if you want to fly beyond visual line of sight, you’ll need to know and follow BVLOS regulations.)
- Safety and security – ANAFI Ai uses the same network technology that is trusted by government agencies, first responders, and even the general public like you and me. Verizon recognizes that a reliable network must be, among other things, a secure network. Every day, Verizon seeks to maintain the highest levels of network reliability and performance, working to protect its network against outside attacks, tampering, malicious activity, and more.
In our chat, Francesca covered far more advantages of Verizon 4G LTE, including long-distance drone operations and one-to-many control of drones. If you want to hear it straight from the expert, you can watch the recording of the webinar (skip to 20:30 in the video)!
4) Why does ANAFI Ai use 4G LTE instead of 5G?
First, we can do a lot with 4G LTE today. 4G LTE is already deployed across the globe. It’s a mature technology. It’s robust and trusted by consumers, businesses, and government entities. And it covers about 90% of drone use cases in demand today.
Second, 5G is still pretty new. The global 5G ecosystem isn’t totally mature yet. In light of global supply chain challenges, the equipment needed to connect drones to 5G networks is limited in availability. But rest assured, Skyward and Verizon are developing standards for airborne 5G as we go. In fact, Verizon operates one of the largest drone programs in the US, so we’re busy at work developing new drone technologies using 5G!
5) Can I fly ANAFI Ai in an area with no cell phone coverage?
Yes, absolutely. I get this question A LOT! “What if I don’t have cell signal?!” ANAFI Ai uses both a Wi-Fi and cellular link for control. By default, the drone frequently samples both connection types and chooses the optimal link. However, the pilot can lock the ANAFI Ai to be controlled via only Wi-Fi or only cellular if desired.
That means, if you’re operating in a rural area that doesn’t have a cellular connection, or if you’re flying in a radio-limited area like a canyon, you can still control your ANAFI Ai using the Wi-Fi link, which has a range of up to 5.6 miles in ideal conditions. In fact, you can often get great performance out of a Wi-Fi link in these areas, due to less interference.
6) What makes ANAFI Ai ideal for photogrammetry?
My coworker Dave Lee wrote a great article on why the Parrot ANAFI Ai is made for photogrammetry. In short, ANAFi Ai’s breakthrough imaging system not only offers omnidirectional obstacle avoidance, but its main camera’s 1/2 inch sensor also takes 48 megapixel images at a rate of one image per second. This high resolution means that ANAFI Ai can capture a greater level of detail, with a ground sample distance of approximately 0.18 inches per pixel at a height of 100 feet. And the high rate of imaging means the drone can capture the imagery up to twice as fast as the competition.
Preorder Parrot ANAFI Ai from Skyward today
Skyward is accepting preorders for Parrot ANAFI Ai, with shipping expected in early 2022. If you preorder by Jan. 31, 2022, you can also get a 12-month Skyward Business+ subscription free with purchase. Not only does that subscription include Verizon 4G LTE connectivity for ANAFI Ai at no extra cost, but it also includes Skyward Mapping & Modeling for an end-to-end photogrammetry experience.