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The Tesla of Camera Drones Is Ready for Takeoff

Consider Mystic a “set it and forget it” sky camera.

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The best thing tech can do as it becomes smarter? Become friendlier, as well.

And just-launched camera drone Mystic ticks both boxes with aplomb.

Powered by an exceedingly brainy AI, the foldable, palm-sized Mystic needs just a smartphone and five minutes of training time to get up and running. And it can take high-def, auteur-level photos and videos without you lifting a finger.

Mystic

Last week, we took Mystic for a test flight at Flushing Meadows in Queens, one of the few legal places to fly a drone in New York City. There, we met a three-member team from Airlango, the Beijing company that built the smart drone.

A few things stand out with Mystic: it’s tiny (you could fit one in any small backpack or tote), it weighs slightly over a pound and it’s so smart that a caveman with a smartphone could successfully launch or land one.

That last fact — and Mystic’s lingo-heavy press release — admittedly make it sound a bit scary: “Airlango’s proprietary technology is the first ever to include neural-computing based AI functionality and flight control on the same chipset. The company hopes to play a part in ushering in a new era of autonomous robots that serve the needs of users through advanced perception and neural processing.”

But this is a device (really, a toy) designed for fun, not becoming the next Skynet. Its primary uses are shooting cool photos and home videos. The AI, developed by vets of Qualcomm, offers multiple “intelligent modes” of control, including:
* 3D tracking, where Mystic follows you on its own and uses self-driving car tech to avoid obstacles
* “Intelli-gesture,” which allows you to customize six different hand gestures to move the drone about
* Template photo, where the drone automatically repositions itself to capture the best picture
* Template video, an array of aerial camera angles inspired by films (panorama video, for one)
* And “Safari,” where Mystic flies along a designated route and uses its digital brainpower to ID “objects of interest” and take pics on its own.

The drone also offers “owner recognition” so the camera eye can focus on the true star of your photos and videos (that’d be you, sunshine). It works with the smartphone you already own (Android or iOS), and the specs are solid, too: 12MP camera, 4K video at 30fps, 32GB flash storage, 30-minute flight time, only 50 minutes to fully charge, and you can fly one from up to 200 meters away … or 800, if you buy a repeater.

The Airlango team debuted Mystic at CES earlier this year, but they’re still working a few kinks out: our 30-minute field test proved the gesture control and intelligent camerawork was on point, but the week’s intensive heat wave had knocked out some of the drone’s sensors, delaying any prolonged flight attempts.

Preorders for the Mystic are available starting today at $459, a 23% discount. Delivery is expected in November. It’s a Kickstarter project, so be aware of all the inherent risks that entails.