Tencent, the maker of WeChat, has a new drone on the way, expected to be available for sale by the end of October for $299.
The Ying drone will stream video directly to WeChat, the most popular messaging platform in China, which boasts over 800 million active users. The drone’s camera can capture 4K video and will stream at 720p HD quality.
It’s the first drone made by a large social media platform for the purpose of sharing footage directly with other users. Tencent partnered with Qualcomm — the company recently started making drone software — and the Chinese drone maker Zerotech to build the tiny aircraft.
WeChat’s entry into drones isn’t entirely unusual despite being known primarily as a messaging platform. In China, apps like WeChat aren’t single-use services like they are in the U.S. In the case of WeChat, people buy and sell things on the service, as well as using it as a media platform. In many ways, it concentrates much of the internet itself into the one app.
The Ying is a small, foldable quadcopter that weighs less than a pound and comes with a carrying case for people to easily slip in their backpack and use on the fly.
The largest consumer-end drone maker in world, DJI, is also based in China, and unveiled its own small foldable drone last month, the Mavic Pro, but it’s significantly more expensive, priced at $999. And the Mavic is heavier, weighing 1.6 pounds, although, DJI’s version is also loaded with gesture recognition software and artificial intelligence that can locate a person, dog, car or other object and follow it around.
WeChat has much more name recognition in China than DJI, and the new Tencent drone’s WeChat-ready setup might appeal to Chinese social media lovers who aren’t necessarily drone enthusiasts.
No word yet on whether the Ying drone will ever be available in the U.S.