Meet the XIRO Xplorer Mini and Xtreme

Newcomer XIRO made quite a splash earlier in January when they showcased their latest Xplorer 2 drone at CES 2016. It is probably the world’s first working prototype of a drone to feature obstacle avoidance in the 350-size category.

While the Xplorer 2 and its predecessor the Xplorer 1 took most of the limelight for the company in Las Vegas, XIRO had also showcased two other models which received less press coverage — the XIRO Xplorer Mini and Xplorer Xtreme.

Both drones look like they’re still in the development stages with the Xplorer Mini looking more like a finished product than the Xtreme. The smaller Xplorer Mini is aimed squarely at the lifestyle market and will probably appeal to fashionistas with its interchangeable fuselage covers that feature funky graphics and colors — probably another industry first for commercially available drones.

Weighing just 450g and with a footprint no larger than an iPad, the Xplorer Mini was designed primarily as a portable lifestyle and travel photography drone. Its motor arms can be folded and tucked in without the need to remove the propellers, making it highly portable when you need to travel. No bags or cases are needed when transporting it. Just drop it into your backpack or sling bag and you’re ready to go.

The Xplorer Mini’s small form factor can be a bit deceiving, giving you the impression that it is just another toy quadcopter but don’t let that small exterior fool you. The Mini is packed with some high-end features commonly found in bigger and more expensive aerial photography drones. The list includes dual-GPS (GLONASS + GPS), optical flow sensors, brushless motors, a 1300mAh intelligent flight battery and a 13MP HD camera.

The availability of dual-GPS also means that the Mini is capable of intelligent flight modes such as Follow Me and 360 Selfies (hover around point).

To keep things simple, XIRO has decided not to include a conventional transmitter with the Xplorer Mini. Instead, the drone uses a smartphone app as its primary control device. Assuming the app uses WiFi to communicate with the drone, this is both good and bad. Having a smartphone app to manually pilot a drone may result in some serious control issues. If a smartphone uses WiFi to communicate with the Mini, it may take some time for the Mini to respond to pilot input which will result in sluggish pilot control.

The 2.4GHz frequency used by WiFi could also potentially interfere with GPS reception.

With that said, we believe most pilots would probably avoid manually flying the Xplorer Mini unless it is absolutely necessary. After all, the Mini wasn’t designed for precision drone racing so we don’t expect anyone to fly it fast around tight spaces. Future Mini owners will probably feel more comfortable using the app to do automated stuff such as automatic landing and take off, instead of manually flying it.

On the other end of the spectrum in the latest XIRO lineup is the aptly named Xplorer Xtreme. Designed primarily for professional aerial photography, the Xtreme features retractable motor arms that also double as landing legs. It is pretty much inspired by the DJI Inspire 1 and was probably designed to compete directly with the DJI flagship.

The Xtreme carries a 3-axis gimbal-stabilized 4K micro 4/3 camera with a 720P HD video downlink that can reach a distance of 2km. Not much detail is available yet on the Xtreme and there is no official word on when it will be available for orders.
At the top of the Xplorer Xtreme’s dinner wishlist is the DJI Inspire 1.

At the top of the Xplorer Xtreme’s dinner wishlist is the DJI Inspire 1.

With the unveiling of its new product range for 2016, XIRO makes industry behemoth DJI look so yesterday.

It would be interesting to see how drone industry leaders respond to this new disruptive force rattling the cage.

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