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MicroSD cards target drones, action cameras

Posted: 07 Apr 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Kingston Technology  drone  action camera  microSD 

Kingston Technology Co. has introduced the microSD Action Camera UHS-I U3 (Speed Class 3) aimed at action cameras such as the GoPro, as well as drones. Geared to handle harsh environments, and initially available in 16Gb and 32Gb with 64Gb soon to follow, the Secure Digital (SD) card supports 4K video at 30fps or HD video at 240fps.

Jean Wong, Kingston's flash card business manager, said the market for regular-sized SD cards has shrunk, but there's increased demand for the smaller footprint of microSD cards, not only in drones and action cameras, but also smartphones and tablets as users look to expand available memory.

Meanwhile, drones are an emerging market that Kingston is still working to fully understand, she said. The drone industry has hit a small hiccup as new licensing rules have impacted the average consumer who wants buy and fly a drone. Wong noted the drone store near her office recently closed down.

Drones are one of the devices expected to take advantage of the Video Speed Class SD memory card standard, she said, which was released by the SD Card Association in February. "We will begin to see hosts, such as cameras, calling for this specification."

MicroSD cards for drones

Figure 1: Drones, such as those made by DJI, are prime candidates for removable memory such as microSD cards (Source DJI)

The Video Speed Class supports real-time multi-file recording for many applications—valuable for a device such as a drone, which are frequently used for video recording but may also collect additional data simultaneously, said Kingston flash card engineer Max Lam, including GPS coordinates and snapping high-resolution photos. In the past, most applications only required sequential writing to an SD card, but now they need to be able to handle both sequential and random writes to accommodate sound, photos and videos. "All of these need to be simultaneously written to the card."

The Video Speed Class not only supports increasingly used 4K video, but also 8K, 3D and 360-degree video recordings. Marks indicating the Video Speed Class will on appear on SDHC and SDXC UHS-I and UHS-II memory cards, with minimum speeds ranging from 6Mb/s to 90Mb/s, with the fastest options, V60 and V90, supporting 8K resolution, while V6, V10 and V30 capture high-definition and 4K resolution.

Lam said the latest specification is not widely used yet, but most action cameras such as those from GoPro support the increasingly popular 4K resolution. "People want to see action in detail," he said. "Once you watch video in 4K you don't want to go back."

Another reason why microSD cards make sense for drones, said Lam, is they allow for memory expansion, rather than being limited to whatever embedded memory came with it. "Embedded would increase the cost." He said the next microSD capacity Kingston anticipates is 256Gb based on NAND availability, and that SD cards tend lag behind a little in capacity due to form factor limitations.

Wong said Kingston is focused on increasing capacity for microSD cards, which will be aided by 3D NAND, making increased capacity and improved performance easier to achieve.

- Gary Hilson
  EE Times

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