New tech to help you shoot your best video footage ever - CES 2015

Autonomous drones, new action cams and heaps of GoPro accessories

If one of your goals for 2015 is to shoot better riding videos, you're in luck.

This year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was chock full of new gear designed to help you collect your best footage ever.

Drones, drones and more drones

Aerial drones are such a hot segment of the consumer electronics market that the show had an entire area dedicated just to them. Many of the options catered to the extremes of the spectrum, with huge six- and eight-rotor models packing enough power to haul full-blown dSLR movie cameras at one end, and pint-sized versions, aimed at casual users who just want to play around, at the other.

Two of the most interesting, were the Hexo+ and Zano – fully autonomous drones that don't require any training to operate. Both got their initial funding via crowdsourcing campaigns and, notably, both absolutely shattered their original goals.

The hexo+ isn't just another drone; its claim to fame is the clever control interface, which supposedly requires no advanced training and allows it to autonomously track its subject in a wide range of styles:
The hexo+ isn't just another drone; its claim to fame is the clever control interface, which supposedly requires no advanced training and allows it to autonomously track its subject in a wide range of styles:

The Hexo+ autonomous drone is impressive in terms of specs, but more so in terms of how easy it supposedly is to operate

The Hexo+ is more visually impressive, with a substantial 62cm (24in) length, six-rotor layout, and sleek black plastic body, beneath which a GoPro Hero 4 (not included) is mounted on a three-axis gimbel to give a steady image capture.

Hexo+ CEO Antoine Level says the drone has a ripping top speed of 70km/h (45mph) with a flight time of around 15 minutes, which would theoretically make it suitable even for downhill action footage of road descents.

The most clever thing about the Hexo+ is the slick control interface. Instead of having to continuously control the drone manually, Hexo+ is fully autonomous – just frame the shot using the associated smartphone app, adjust a few parameters (such as follow distance, programmed movements, and so on), and launch the drone. Hexo+'s software takes over from there, adjusting the drone's flight as needed in order to keep the shot framed as intended.

Hexo+'s straightforward control interface should take a lot of the guesswork away from drone operation:
Hexo+'s straightforward control interface should take a lot of the guesswork away from drone operation:

Hexo+'s control interface looks especially slick and straightforward to use with no in-flight manual operation required

Hexo+ is quite expensive – US$1,150 – though, and that price doesn't even include the camera – which makes the somewhat similar Zano drone all that much more appealing. Its US$230 asking price makes it much more accessible.

That price gets you a much smaller four-rotor drone that fits neatly on a CD (remember those?) with similar flight time to the Hexo+ and a still-reasonable 40km/h (25mph) top speed. Whereas the Hexo+'s programming is visually based, however, Zano operates on more of a 'virtual tether', honing in and maintaining a prescribed distance to the smartphone to which it's paired.

Upstart conpany zano is new to the consumer market but boasts a long history of military drone development. its new drone functions autonomously like the hexo+ but with a much smaller size and far more accessible price point of around us$230 :
Upstart conpany zano is new to the consumer market but boasts a long history of military drone development. its new drone functions autonomously like the hexo+ but with a much smaller size and far more accessible price point of around us$230 :

The Zano autonomous drone is comparatively tiny but no less feature-packed

Despite its diminutive size, the Zano packs in a remarkable amount of hardware, including as a GPS guidance chip, a 5-megapixel camera, an on-board LED flash, WiFi server, and sensors for collision avoidance. The modular design also makes for easy upgrades down the road.

Both drones are still in the final development phase but should be available within the next few months.

We're dying to try the hexo+ drone for ourselves

Video: We're dying to try the Hexo+ drone for ourselves

The zano autonomous drone looks to be similarly slick in operation - and it's way cheaper

Video: The zano autonomous drone looks to be similarly slick in operation – and it's way cheaper

New action cams and lots of GoPro accessories

We lost track of the number of action cameras on display at CES but a few definitely caught our attention more than others.

Consumer electronics giant Sony showed off a new flagship with 4K resolution for ultra-sharp images, Replay XD's Prime X packs an all-glass, AR-coated aspherical lens and a bigger-than-average CMOS sensor into its slick waterproof aluminium body, and companies such as Optrix were capitalising on the creative potential of newer Apple iPhones with weather- and impact-resistant cases and mounts designed to help you make better use of the video camera you probably already have in your pack.

Tired of running out of battery power on your gopro? consider a refuel extended battery pack from digipower with claimed run times of up to twelve hours:
Tired of running out of battery power on your gopro? consider a refuel extended battery pack from digipower with claimed run times of up to twelve hours:

Get up to 12 hours of run time on a GoPro camera when it's fitted with Digipower's biggest Refuel battery pack

That said, GoPro is still the dominant player in this area, and there was no shortage of new accessories on hand to support the format.

Among the most appealing were extended-life battery packs from Digipower with claimed run times up to 12 hours (the standard run time is 2.5 hours), well thought-out new storage cases from Thule, and simple – but effective – stabilised handheld mounts from Tiffen for smoother footage.

Many photographers may know the tiffen brand name better for its huge range of filters but the company was also showing off a range of handheld steadicam camera stabilizers for smoother video recordings:
Many photographers may know the tiffen brand name better for its huge range of filters but the company was also showing off a range of handheld steadicam camera stabilizers for smoother video recordings:

Shoot smoother GoPro footage with Tiffen's Steadicam

If you were already proficient shooter, some of these bits might be just what you need to take things to the next level – and if you haven't gotten into it yet but want to, there have never been better options to help get you going.

For more information on all the products above, visit www.hexoplus.com, www.flyzano.com, www.sony.com, www.optrix.com, www.gopro.com, www.thule.com, www.digipowersolutions.com, www.replayxd.com and www.tiffen.com.

James Huang

Former Technical Editor, US
James was BikeRadar's US tech editor from 2007-2015.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Up in the Colorado high-country where the singletrack is still single, the dirt is still brown, and the aspens are in full bloom. Also, those perfect stretches of pavement where the road snakes across the mountainside like an artist's paintbrush.
  • Beer of Choice: Mexican Coke
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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