Israeli nano-GPS powers ‘selfie’ nano-drone

One of the most popular Kickstarter projects ever ‘wouldn’t exist’ without a chip from OriginGPS, says the maker of the Zano

Zano Nano-Drone (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Zano Nano-Drone (Photo credit: Courtesy)

The biggest thing in drones is the Zano, weighing in at a diminutive 55 grams (1.94 oz) in a 6.5 centimeter x 6.5 centimeter (2.5″ x 2.5″) package. And to keep the Zano, the smallest drone available to consumers, under control, its makers are using the world’s smallest GPS module.

That module is made by Israel’s OriginGPS, which specializes in making mini-sized direction and guidance chips and systems.

“To put it simply, Zano would not exist without OriginGPS,” said Reece Crowther, head of Sales and Marketing of the Torquing Group, maker of the Zano. “The GPS feature of Zano is the heart and soul of the product, and because we have pushed the boundaries of UAV size, no other product on the market could provide the power of Zano at the same minimal size and weight. Picking OriginGPS to power Zano was a no-brainer.”

Zano, which is still under development, is turning out to be one of the biggest Kickstarter crowdfunding success stories ever. In five days, it raised over £750,000 – more than five times its goal of £125,000 – and still has 25 days of fundraising to go. The Zano bills itself as “the world’s most sophisticated nano-drone,” capable of flying hundreds of feet up in the air, “tethered” to a user’s smart device via wifi, with a 5 megapixel camera that can take photos and videos. Users see what the Zano sees on their smartphones and can focus or zoom in on any object. It can even takes selfies, says its maker, by focusing its camera on its owner – a lot cooler than just pointing a smartphone camera at your face.

The user controls the Zano and sets it on a flight path, but the drone has a plethora of sensors that get activated when it’s up in the air and enable it to avoid obstacles and return to its flight path. Users can also get the device to follow them around – it’s capable of speeds of up to 25 mph – with the Zano maintaining the same distance from its control device even when it moves around.

It can also work as part of a “nano-swarm,” a fleet of Zanos can be deployed to take photos and videos of a scene from multiple vantage points, with the devices working in tandem to shoot images from different sides. All the footage can be commbined in a single editing interface, where users can add image filters, text, audio, etc.

It’s to Israel’s OriginGPS that the Zano people have turned for the technology to enable the mini-drone to pull off its tricks. The OriginGPS Micro-Hornet GPS module measures 10 millimeters by 10 millimeters by 3.44 millimeters, ensuring that the Zano app can communicate with and control the device.

An OriginGPS Nano Hornet GPS chip (Photo credit: Courtesy)
An OriginGPS Nano Hornet GPS chip (Photo credit: Courtesy)

OriginGPS boasts a slew of customers that are using their mini-modules in a variety of interesting ways. For example, Spain’s Ficosa International, which produces systems and parts for the automotive industry, last year showed off an in-Vehicle Telematic Unit that integrates communication and navigation via satellite and is capable of picking up satellite signals from all of the world’s current and future location systems (GPS/ GALILEO/ GLONASS/ BEIDOU/ QZSS). The lightweight system is suitable for integration into any component of a car — including a windshield, the company said. Other manufacturers are using the chip in wearables such as T-shirts and hats that signal a user’s position to a server and show how far/fast they have run or hiked, integrated with sensors that measure heartbeat and other vital signals.

The Zano is OriginGPS’s smallest – and most fun – achievement yet, said CEO Gal Jacobi. “Fully-featured, high-performance components that have minimal size and power consumption enable developers to create innovative devices with the smaller form factors that consumers demand without compromising functionality,” he said.

“Torquing Group is tapping into a rich market of smartphone users who are eager to utilize personal UAVs to better capture important moments in their lives, and we believe consumers will latch onto Zano. With the help of OriginGPS, Zano can draw on extremely accurate positioning information to provide the advanced controls that will delight its users while maintaining a small and sleek exterior.”

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