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Parrot launches ANAFI USA – A drone for first responders and enterprise

Parrot has just released a brand new drone.

The company hopes the ambitious new drone will find a niche with first responders and enterprise users. It’s called the ANAFI USA – a name that touts its Made-in-America status at a time when there’s been some push-back against Chinese-made drones over alleged security concerns. The product will retail for $7,000 US and features an array of sensors including thermal and 32X optical imagery, as well as enhanced data security features.

According to Parrot’s news release, ANAFI USA is a “powerful drone built to meet the demands of first responders, firefighters, search-and-rescue teams, security agencies, surveying and inspection professionals. Featuring an industry-first 32x zoom, 4K HDR video, and thermal imaging capabilities, ANAFI USA is an ultraportable, secure and durable aerial camera platform.”

The new device is small enough to take off from your hand. Weighing in at 1.1 pounds, or 500 grams, it has a 32-minute flight time. It can also be deployed before waiting for a satellite GPS lock, which means it can be in the air less than 55 seconds after it’s been pulled out and unfolded. That feature could come in handy during emergency missions where every second truly counts.

32x optical; 4k visual & 1280 x 720 thermal

Parrot also points out its 32X optical camera can pull in details down to one cm resolution from a distance of 150 meters. That’s sharp enough, says the company, to read a license plate from that distance. Parrot says that this extended optical zoom, in certain situations, can also help ensure the safety of the operator.

Detail illustrates the power of the 32X zoom on the new Parrot Anafi USA drone

“So it basically enables me – whether I’m a First Responder, a police officer, a solar panel inspector – I don’t have to be on top of the fire, I don’t have to be right next to the high voltage power line for situational awareness,” explains Chris Roberts, Parrot’s chief sales and marketing officer.

What’s more, the thermal FLIR BOSON imagery (320 X 256 resolution, recorded to video at 1280 x 720, 9 fps) can be “blended” on top of the 4K RGB video, allowing the operator to overlay temperature data on top of the wider visual scene. That kind of situational awareness can be very valuable when trying to steer people away from hazards, deploy resources more effectively, and even during search and rescue operations.

The Parrot Anafi USA carries three sensors: Two are optical and one is thermal

Roberts gave DroneDJ a briefing prior to the release of this unit, and it’s clear he’s passionate about its potential. One of the key selling features is the unit’s SD card encryption. Using an AES-XTS algorithm with a 512-bit key length, all images and data saved to the SD card are highly encrypted. Even if the drone were to crash and wind up in someone else’s hands – they would not be able to read the card.

Anafi USA origins

So how did this new product come to be?

You might think Parrot identified the first responder market as being significant – and that would be true. There’s also the fact that some have suggested DJI products are not sufficiently secure for this kind of work – though external audits have shown repeatedly that security risks are actually minimal. But there’s another factor at play here.

Parrot is one of the companies currently involved in the US Department of Defence’s Short-Range Reconnaissance program, or SRR. As part of that, the company has been building a drone to fulfill DoD requirements – which include stringent data security. As the SRR work progressed, says Parrot, the company realized it had the makings of a drone it felt would be perfect for first responders and enterprise clients.

This looks a bit like a movie set, but you get the point Parrot is trying to make…

“We built this with three things in mind,” says Parrot’s Roberts: “Imaging, security and ruggedness… This is how we came up with the good ingredients that make up the Anafi USA.”

Undoubtedly, Parrot also learned with its 2019 Anafi Thermal release that there’s a market for enterprise users and first responders who want an affordable drone with thermal capabilities. That Anafi was smaller and more affordable than other thermal units then on the market. 

This unit, however, takes things a significant step up. With its 32x optical zoom, wide angle lens, and FLIR BOSON sensor, situational awareness can be obtained from a significant distance. But is a 21-megapixel sensor enough, given that the recently released Mavic 2 Air comes packed with 48 megapixels and the trend is undeniably toward higher resolution sensors? Parrot says it’s fine for the job – especially given all the features packed into this 1.1 pound machine.

“The fact this has a 21 megapixel camera versus the size of the drone,” says Roberts, “it’s very very versatile and efficient to achieve what you need to, without doubling the weight of the drone.”

Powerful but quiet

Flight time is 32 minutes and the battery charges via USB in two hours. The propellers have tiny scallops along the trailing edge as well – a feature that assists with reducing the noise created by the Anafi USA. The sound pressure level (SPL) has been measured at 79 decibels when the drone is 50 centimeters off the ground.

The new Parrot Anafi USA flies for up to 32 minutes on a single battery

The maximum transmission range, using the Parrot Skycontroller 3, is 2.5 miles or 4km. While some in the enterprise sector (notably DJI) have longer transmission ranges, Parrot says developers are already working on specialized apps for the Anafi USA using its Software Development Kit (SDK). In the near future, suggests Roberts, there will be apps capable of assisting takeoff of the Anafi USA from moving vehicles – among other things.

Data security

One of the biggest features of this drone is data security. This is undoubtedly to assure users who may be concerned their data could potentially end up in the hands of others.

There are many features on this front, including:

  • Secure connection via WPA2 Wi-Fi
  • Signed firmware to ensure the Anafi USA’s software cannot be maliciously modified
  • Anonymous flight data stored in secure European servers – local copies on the drone’s SD card (which is encrypted)
  • Compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). By default, no data can be shared without the explicit consent of the user

“It is very stringent and very tough on privacy, the collecting of data, the storing of data,” says Parrot’s Chris Roberts.

There’s more

There are lots of other selling features that Parrot believes add to the Anafi USA’s value proposition. They include a gimbal that can tilt from -140° (beyond nadir) to +110° (over zenith). This allows the sensors to pick up data from both below and above the drone’s position. This will be a particularly useful feature for jobs like inspecting bridges or other infrastructure from below.

Other key features Parrot is touting include:

  • Hybrid 3-axis stabilization (2-axis mechanical stabilization and 3-axis digital stabilization)
  • Thermal media can be replayed, edited, and analyzed without downloading
  • Hand launch and landing, useful in challenging terrains
  • Ingress Protection of IP53; five against solids and three against liquids.
  • High-quality footage even when winds reach 15m/sec (33 mph)

There’s more, and you can download the entire specification and feature sheet here.

$7k sticker shocker

With a retail price of $7,000 US, the Anafi USA is not an inexpensive drone for its size. But it’s also not priced as high as some of its larger competitors, many of which have become industry standards.

Compared to the old Anafi, not made in the USA and with a less exciting array of cameras, it is more than 10 times the $699 price. Those sensors are cool but I have a feeling a lot more of that cost is its made in the USA status.

Will it sell? The market will decide. But it’s clear Parrot is sending a signal here, that the company is very much *officially* entering the first responder and enterprise market, a territory that has largely been DJI’s domain.

DJI’s products have been proven in this field and are often the first choice of many police, fire, and search and rescue departments. Parrot will face some stiff competition here, but it seems likely that the combination of price, features, and rapid deployment will find a niche.

The product will become available, through Parrot’s Enterprise dealer network, in August.