Ring, the Amazon-owned home security business, introduced a flying camera on Thursday that may excite home-surveillance fans but is almost certain to rankle privacy advocates.
The $250 drone, called Ring Always Home Cam, is among a slew of products unveiled during Amazon’s invitation-only online hardware event.
The drone is small and light, with a high-definition camera, and it can automatically fly on preset paths to specific spots in your home, streaming video to your smartphone of what it sees along the way. Users can set up paths for the drone via a smartphone app, or if the drone detects motion in a part of your home it can fly on its own to that spot and take video of what’s going on. Set for release next year, the drone is meant for indoor use only, and it can be set to work with the Ring Alarm system so that it will fly a preset route if the alarm is triggered.
The drone’s camera appears to be mounted on a short trunk extending below its propellers (which are housed in a square cage), and will only record when the drone is flying, said Leila Rouhi, president of Ring, as she introduced the device. The camera is blocked when the drone is sitting in its dock, she said.
“We know when something happens our customers want to be able to see exactly what’s going on, but it’s not always feasible to have whole-home coverage,” Rouhi said, explaining why Ring created the drone.
Though the Always Home Cam is said to be coming next year, Ring did not show the drone actually flying. Video that appeared to be taken from a drone’s perspective inside of a home was captioned with a note that read “Functionality simulated for illustrative purposes only”, and video footage showed Rouhi holding it.
The device’s ability to navigate your home is sure to concern privacy experts, who have already blasted Amazon for Ring’s partnerships with hundreds of police departments around the US; though these deals are meant to make it easier for local law enforcement to access videos taken by users, privacy advocates see it as a way to build a widespread surveillance network.
In an effort to assuage some privacy fears in advance, Ring said the drone is meant to be noisy while in flight — making it obvious when it’s in use -— and that it can’t be manually controlled.