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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.