360 Designs have revealed a new drone which carries the company’s 6k 360 VR video camera and a payload capable of broadcasting that imagery “over 5 miles” from a companion base station, which the company says means live-streamable, “broadcast quality” aerial 360 video is now a possibility.

Another example of how the rapid advance of video compression and transmission techniques continue to open surprising possibilities, the ‘Flying Eye’ from San Francisco and LA based company 360 Designs is here and it can deliver high resolution VR video shot from 100s of metres up.

The specialised UAV drone is actually a MATRICE 600 PRO from DJI, but the device is well suited to carrying the company’s Flying Eye 3 Mini 360 video camera, a device capable of shooting at 6k/30FPS in 10bit colour, albeit monoscopic. The real USP however is when the above hear is paired with a dedicated ‘Breeze 6k’ ground station, which then allows the drone to roam 5 miles or more from lift off and still transmit a compressed HVEC (H.265) back for live spherical stitching and subsequent transmission.

“We wanted to create a broadcast quality live 360 drone platform for professionals, so they can create stunning live VR productions, with or without the drone in shot,” said Alx Klive, CEO of 360 Designs. “The sky is no longer the limit.”

Despite the lack of stereoscopy, the Mini Eye 3 360 camera boasts some impressive optical attributes such as a claimed 450 degrees of horizontal with 30 degrees of FOV overlap “per stitch line for post production” as well as 380 degrees of vertical FOV with “no zenith or nadir hole.”

As you might expect however, this is all aimed at professionals, with the ‘Flying Eye’ package starting at a cool $75,000 with the company due to demonstrate its new offering at NAB 2017, which kicks off this week in Las Vegas.

Of course, the VR community are divided on whether spherical 360 video, especially without stereoscopy, offers a suitably immersive experience to be treated as true VR content. Regardless, 360 Designs system looks like an interesting prospect for video professionals smitten by aerial 360 footage.

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