Unless you happen to be very adept at training pigeons to follow you around, with cameras stuck to their heads, it’s unlikely you’ve ever had the chance to capture some third-person aerial footage of yourself doing the action sport you love. Sure, you’ve probably shot some POV stuff on your GoPro. Who hasn’t? For many, however, the first-person perspective by itself just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.
And, so, what’s the solution to this? Bearing in mind that the pigeon idea is, let’s face it, highly impractical and just a tad unrealistic for most people I guess it’s time to introduce you to the Hexo Plus. Before you shout something at the screen like “what the hell is a Hexo Plus”, or “I don’t know even know why I clicked on this”, allow us to fill you in.
The Hexo Plus is a drone specifically designed to follow you, and film you in extreme locations. In conjunction with a dedicated app, the Hexo Plus is capable of pursuing users at speeds of up to 44mph and simultaneously shooting high-quality aerial footage. Never willing to take things at face-value, Mpora decided to investigate whether this potentially revolutionary gadget could live up to the hype.
We recently went to Verbier, the mountain biking paradise of Switzerland, to put the Hexo Plus through its paces and to see if this nifty little gadget really is the future of action sports filmmaking. On paper, it seems absolutely perfect. But paper, is just paper. Or, if we’re being pernickety, paper is just a WordPress article on the screen of your smartphone.
So let’s get right to the meat and bones of the matter, and answer some essential questions about the Hexo Plus. Does it work? Yes, it works. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. Is it a very exciting piece of kit? Yes (again). The Hexo Plus is so exciting, in fact, that I’ve just given myself neck ache from another round of excitable head-nodding.
We tested a variety of the Hexo’s functions, and everything seemed to run smoothly. Or, should that be fly smoothly? Whatever, it makes no difference. We tried it on a small mountain bike segment, riding an actual mountain bike rather than a penny farthing, and it followed us exactly how it was designed to.
Minus a brief synchronising malfunction, when it lost connection to the partnered phone app, it obediently hovered along behind me while I made a complete mess of a relatively easy MTB trail. Upon finishing the trail, I took the phone out of my pocket and guided the Hexo Plus in for a nice safe landing.
The controls themselves are simple, and extremely user-friendly, so no worries on that score. After only a minute of using it, I felt very much at one with the drone. No need for a phonebook-sized instruction manual here, the Hexo Plus is designed in such a way that any old chump can operate it intuitively.
We also got some alone time with the Hexo Plus, away from the mountain bikes. During this particular round of testing, we ran up and down some slopes and tested more of the drone’s functions (360 selfie, track left, track right and so on, and so forth). Like a killer flying robot from the future, the drone was a master at keeping us locked in it’s sights.
Running away from the Hexo Plus, I briefly feel like I’m a character in a science-fiction movie. The hum of the blades rotating to keep the Hexo Plus in the air, the way it tracks your movements no matter how fast you sprint, it can be a pretty nerve-jangling affair if you let your imagination get away from you (like I did, on more than one occasion).
Of course, the real highlight of the day is watching how the Hexo Plus copes with the ferocious speed and movement of professional MTBers. Fortunately Ludo May, who once rode a downhill trail in the dark with fireworks strapped to his head, and Fabrice ‘Trifon’ Tirefort are on hand to show us how it’s done and to give the Hexo Plus a real challenge.
After a false start, in which the Hexo Plus fails to leave the starting blocks, the MTBers head back to the top of the trail and go hell-for-leather. The Hexo Plus follows obediently, managing to not only track the riders but also capture some wonderfully slick footage. The precision of the drone’s engineering and in-built calculations here boggle the mind.
As we’ve mentioned already, however, the Hexo Plus is far from perfect. The battery life does seem frustratingly short, less than 15 minutes by our reckoning. Also, the lack of an onboard collision-prevention/detection feature seems like an accident waiting to happen. These issues, we’re informed, are two of the areas currently being looked at.
Throughout our day of testing, there was also a number of times when the connection between phone app and drone was lost. This occasional problem with synchronisation, we were informed, was put down to the extremities of the environment. Of course, one could argue that, it’s in places such as this where the Hexo Plus is most likely to be used so as an excuse it doesn’t really stack up.
The price is also something to consider, $1500 according to the website. When you factor in that this amount doesn’t include a GoPro camera, the numbers really start to add up (making it, potentially, one very expensive Christmas present). Although, whether you’d buy one without already owning a GoPro is a chat we’ll save for another time.
The criticisms we’ve just listed might make it sound like we’re not that into the Hexo Plus. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. There’s a lot to love about the Hexo Plus, and with a few improvements it could become an essential purchase for action sports enthusiasts everywhere .
Before our time in Verbier came to an end, we were able to catch up with one of the co-founders behind the Hexo Plus Matthieu Giraud. He had this to say:
“From the beginning, we wanted to design the product and the app so that someone interested in footage, someone who is an outdoors person, either in action sports or creatively-oriented will be capable of using it without any prior knowledge of the drone technology.”
“Of course, the first people who bought the product are early adaptors. We didn’t want them to feel constraints. If we had been more technological, they might have come along with us but the idea is to deliver the best possible footage and the best aerial view to everyone and for this we had to make it really accessible.”
“If you compare the prices, it’s actually a cheap solution to getting bird’s eye footage.”
“I wouldn’t say my mum will use it, but anyone who wants to be in the outdoors, and wants to get good footage, or take good photographs, or shoot good films will definitely be interested and could have access to quality aerial footage without renting a crew. If you compare the prices, it’s actually a cheap solution to getting bird’s eye footage.”
Whichever way you spin it, this flying camera drone is certainly an exciting piece of kit. If you’d like to know more about it, or just get straight on the bandwagon and pre-order one immediately, head on over to hexoplus.com.