Crowdfunding campaign launched for revolutionary drone on a leash

By midian182
Aug 20, 2015
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  1. Drone maker Fotokite has launched its first consumer model, the Phi, on crowdfunding site Indiegogo in an attempt to raise $300,000 for the project. The quadcopter differs from the usual camera-mounted drones by having no complex controller, app or GPS system; the whole thing is controlled by a retractable tether attached to the device.

    The Fotokite Phi, which can be pre-ordered at the non-early bird price of $349, has been referred to as a “no-frills aerial camera” that allows consumers to operate a drone without any safety concerns or piloting skills.

    Rather than having a built-in camera, the Phi is optimized to use a GoPro Hero3, Hero3+ or Hero4 camera (not included with the drone). Fotokite says it’s planning to integrate the GoPro with its remote so that the camera can be operated and adjusted while the drone is in the air.

    The 300-gram Phi recognizes where its user is by the tension it feels from its 26-foot long tether. When airborne, the drone can be maneuvered via the user’s wrist movements. It uses low-torque soft plastic blades with guards, meaning that should the Phi hit someone when flying low in a crowded area it carries little risk of injuring them.

    Another unique feature of the device is that it can be completely folded up and stored in a portable canister. Right now, the only issue some may find with the drone is that its flight time is limited to around 10-15 minutes, although it can be recharged either by USB or via removable batteries.

    As the Phi is more like an intelligent kite than anything else, it has managed to circumvent certain rules governing where drones can be used and by whom; the device can be regulated as a kite under FAA UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) guidelines. Additionally, both Switzerland and France have already given permission for the Phi to be flown near crowds.

    The crowdfunding project has almost reached the halfway point in its funding goal after only 2 days, so it looks as if the Fotokite Phi may soon become a common sight in our skies. To learn more about the device, check out the video below.

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    cliffordcooley likes this.
  2. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,321   +263

    There's a number of things I like about this "Smart Kite" (ha ha ha). The ease of charging or outright replacing the battery is good considering how short the battery life currently is. Easy storage and relatively soft parts make transporting and flying it easier and safer. The leash handle acts as the remote the control scheme is fairly simple as well. While it is a seperate purchase, it is compatible with a number of gopro platforms so if you already have one, it's one less camera to own.

    I feel like the leash controller could be even easier without gesture controls, accomplished by something like a wiimote nunchuck for instance. The tether itself is very visible which might take away from the footage, but does help to keep other people aware of it (to avoid running into or snagging it). Price and battery life are obvious points of issue but almost any battery operated thing this is the case.

    All in all, pretty cool.
    midian182 and cliffordcooley like this.
  3. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,408   +463

    For something that looks so cheap, $350 without the camera feels trully expensive.

    Also the way you have to keep your arm extended all the time looks dumb (By all the time I mean the whole 10 minutes it lasts).

    What I found cool is the packaging idea.
  4. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,408   +463

    How about a beacon tracking with roomba-like sensors to avoid hitting or crashing into stuff, it should be more expensive but it would be awesome and "wire"-less.

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