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Skydio 2 takes 116mp fully spherical aerial 360 photos automatically (see sample)

Skydio 2 360 photos (see samples)

How would you like to take fully spherical aerial 360 photos automatically?  You can with Skydio 2 or Skydio 2+ . Here is a sample.


Skydio 2 (which was later succeeded by Skydio 2+) is a self-flying drone that is known for its best-in-class obstacle avoidance, enabling it track and follow a subject through challenging environments such as forests.  Skydio 2 also has an option to unlock its unique ability to autonomously take photogrammetric photos of buildings or interiors even where GPS is not available.

Earlier this year, Skydio updated the firmware to add the ability to capture panoramas — 180 horizontal, 180 vertical, or fully spherical.  Although there are many drones that can capture 360 photos, most of them have a large blind spot at the zenith.  However, Skydio 2 has a camera that can tilt upward or downward a full 90 degrees, and therefore can take a fully spherical 360 photo without any blind spot.

Last month, Skydio announced that they would be focusing on enterprise customers, but Skydio 2+ Enterprise Edition remains available for purchase (and of course you can also buy a used one) and they are still fully supporting their consumer customers.  I bought my Skydio 2 in 2019 and when I sent a voicemail inquiry this morning, they responded via email in 2 hours.


Skydio 2 uses its main camera, which is an f/2.8 wide angle lens with 20mm equivalent focal length paired with a 12.3 megapixel 1/2.3 inch Sony IMX577 sensor.    It takes 26 shots to capture the fully spherical 360 photo (1 zenith, 3 rows of 8 shots each, and 1 nadir).

You have the option to shoot in JPG only or JPG + DNG.  Exposure is automatic and can be set either globally (“Smart Capture”) or individually with a different exposure for each photo.  There is no option to bracket the shots.

After you land, Skydio 2 begins stitching the panoramas but must remain connected to the app.  The panoramas are stitched in JPG with a 72mp resolution (12000 x 6000).  However, the DNG photos can be stitched in PTGui to yield a resolution of about 116mp (approximately 15242 x 7621).

Here is an unedited sample of the photo stitched by Skydio’s app:

You can see it is underexposed because it attempted to preserve the highlights.   If you click on the second thumbnail above, you can see a version automatically edited by Windows Photo app with normalized exposure.

The photo looks reasonably detailed with good color and white balance.  The stitching is not perfect, with a few stitching errors here and there, but it looks passable for an automatically stitched photo.

You can stitch and edit the photo using third party software such as PTGui.  Here is a version edited using simple editing methods from HQ Lite and uploaded to Google Street View:

The Skydio 2’s photo quality is quite good.  Not as good as Mavic 3, but it has the convenience of being fully spherical.  Compared to other drones capable of fully spherical aerial 360 photos:

  • vs. DJI Mavic Air 2 with Insta360 Sphere: Skydio 2 is far more detailed and has better image quality.
  • vs. Parrot Anafi: Skydio 2 is more detailed and has far better image quality because Anafi can only take JPG photos.  Moreover, Anafi is relatively unstable in flight and therefore its panoramas can have more stitching errors.  Finally, Skydio 2 is more convenient because it can stitch panoramas automatically whereas Anafi cannot stitch 360 photos.
  • vs. DJI Mini 3 or Mini 3 Pro: DJI Mini 3 or Mini 3 Pro has much better image quality because it has a significantly larger 1/1.3 inch sensor, and much higher resolution panorama (161 megapixels).  However, Skydio 2 is more convenient because it takes fully spherical 360 photos reliably, whereas with Mini 3 Pro, strong winds can prevent the Mini 3 from being able to tilt up its camera sufficiently to cover the zenith.  Skydio 2 can also be operated indoors even when there is no GPS signal, as long as there is adequate light for its sensors to see the environment.

For American customers, another consideration is privacy and security.  Skydio is an American company whereas there are allegations that DJI has ties to the Chinese government, and it is not allowed to be used by the U.S. Department of State and some government entities.


To use the spherical panorama feature, you must have firmware 21.1.106 or above installed.  To update your firmware, first download the update to your phone:

  1. In the Skydio phone app, tap on “info” on the lower right corner
  2. Under Devices, tap on your Skydio.  In the next screen, tap on “Check for Update.”  If a new firmware is available, it will download it to your phone.
Check for update before connecting your drone
Check for update before connecting your drone

After downloading the update, make sure that your drone is either connected to a USB power source, or ensure that it has adequate battery.  Also make sure there’s space on its micro SD card.  Then connect your app to the drone by tapping on “Connect to Drone” to install the new firmware.  Do not interrupt the update process.  It is done when you see a popup message on your app asking to reconnect to the drone’s Wi-Fi network.


New panorama skill is under General skills
New panorama skill is under General skills
  1. Connect your app to Skydio 2 and launch your Skydio 2
  2. Tap on the skills button.  Under “General” skills (to the left of “Cinematic” skills), look for the new Panorama skill.
  3. Tap on the three lines next to the shutter to show the options for the Panorama skill.  You can choose the type of panorama: horizontal, vertical or spherical.  You can also choose the exposure — whether “Smart Capture” (the same exposure for all the shots) or “Customized Capture” (exposure for each shot set independently).
  4. Press the shutter to start capturing the 360 photo.

How to stitch Skydio panoramas

After you land, Skydio will begin stitching each of the panoramas automatically.  A nifty touch is that the stitched panorama will be added to any auto-recorded video of your flight.

However, if you have PTGui, you can get higher resolution and better stitching by stitching the DNG photos in PTGui.  Here is a stitching template for Virtual Tour Edge members.

Skydio will stitch the panoramas after you land
Skydio will stitch the panoramas after you land

About the author

Mic Ty


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    • Sorry to hear that. I cover news that I think is relevant to readers. On FB you can see this post got a lot of attention, which seems to confirm that it is indeed a topic of interest. As for Skydio, I don’t know much about their litigation but I think they have innovative features such as 3D Scan and best-in-class obstacle avoidance. I’d like to know why you think these are not innovative.

  • I do a lot of commercial aerial 360 and I believe the Mini 3 Pro is still the best option (probably now includes the Air 3 as has the same capabilities). You have full manual control, higher quality results and whilst you have a very small section missing if when you stitch, this is so small that it is easily fixed. You also get a stitched Jpg out of camera. Thsse can have minor stitching errors, but are good to choose best ones to do a full edit on.

    • Mini 3 is excellent for aerial 360. But if you try taking a 360 with Mini 3 in somewhat windy conditions then you know that it will stop in the middle. Skydio 2 can tilt its camera full 90 degrees vertically (actually it can even point backward a bit) so it is more tolerant of windy conditions.

      • Thanks for the reply and Good points, but I wouldn’t do in commercial work in windy conditions as I don’t want any issues of movement. The Air 3 is probably more stable due to size and power. Overall I want the manual control over exposure.

  • Mic, you should take this article down, I contacted them and they said “ We unfortunately discontinued our cinematography drones. We still have our enterprise version if you’re interested?”

    • Hi Brian. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m not taking it down. It’s still available to purchase used or the enterprise version.

    • Hi Philip. It takes 26 shots. 3 rows of 8 + 1 zenith + 1 nadir. I don’t have a sample available for download but the files are easy to edit. Vignetting is moderate and not heavy as with DJI DNG files.

    • Hi Michael. As mentioned in the article, many DJI and other drones can take aerial 360. What’s novel here is that the photos by Skydio are fully spherical, meaning the zenith (facing up) is not just a patched area but an actual photo of the sky or ceiling. Mini 3 can do that too and again the article also talks about that.