A new venture pitching ”pocket drones” small enough to fit inside a cargo pocket but strong enough to tote a GoPro camera is burning up Kickstarter with more than $100,000 raised in less than 48 hours.
AirDroids, a San Diego-based startup that emerged from the enthusiast Drone User’s Group community, demoed its pocket-sized, remote-controlled multi-copter at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. After taking the stage Wednesday at the Tech Crunch-produced Hardware Battlefield event, the startup’s Kickstarter campaign went into overdrive.
The Pocket Drone is based on a ”unique, cutting-edge, collapsible, compact design” with folding propellers, built-in landing gear, and a built-in camera mount, according to AirDroids founders Tim Reuter, T.J. Johnson, and Chance Roth. Despite its small size, the triple-propeller micro-coptor offers the ”longest flight times of any copter under $500,” for flights of up to 20 minutes in duration while fully loaded with a camera weighing half the device’s 1-pound operational weight.
AirDroids is billing its tricopter as a plug-and-play device, capable of getting up and flying within 20 seconds of unboxing. It’s also based on an open software platform underpinned by Google’s Android mobile operating system, making the copter controllable via the controller the startup plans to ship with the Pocket Droid, any DSM compatible radio controller, or even by way of an Android tablet or smartphone, the founders said.
The Pocket Drone’s tri-propeller design also means it produces 33 percent less noise than available quad-copters—certainly a selling point for those seeking that extra bit of stealthy oomph in their remote-controlled, flying picture-and-video capture platform.
AirDroids calls the Pocket Drone ”upgradeable, expandable, and hackable,” with the mini-copter specifically ”designed for and by open-source enthusiasts.” The device’s flight controller is ”programmable and easy to modify with open source tools,” while the mobile app that runs it on Android devices is also customizable. The startup also suggested syncing display-enabled goggles to the Pocket Drone’s video feed for ”a full bird’s eye immersive experience.”
For those less interested in hacking the platform, AirDroids said it provides a number of built-in software features, sensors, and cross-platform capabilities (all upgradeable through firmware updates) for users, including:
- Advanced software and systems with autopilot and ”follow me” mode
- State-of-the-art flight controls, algorithms, and connectivity
- APM-compatible flight controller 6-axis accelerometers, 3-axis gyroscopes, barometric sensor (altitude)
- Integrated onboard autopilot flight planning with Google Maps
- Fly-by-GPS waypoints
- ”Follow Me” mode (requires mobile device with GPS)
- Altitude Hold
- Return to Home (RTH)
- Headfree mode (orientation independent flying)
- Load/Save and repeat/replay flight missions
- Real-time flight data
- Artificial Horizon
- Altitude Heading indicator
- GPS signal strength indicator
- PC, Mac, and Linux compatibility
- Mission Planner or QGroundControl compatibility
- Android compatibility (tablet and phone)
The copter’s hardware platform is being built with top-notch materials, according to AirDroids, which is using carbon fiber advanced high-impact plastic resins for key components. The Pocket Droid will also support Apple’s iOS for syncing with iPads and iPhones in the future, the startup said.
Kickstarter backers of the Pocket Droid willing to pony up $445 or more will get one ready-to-fly AirDroids Pocket Drone plus additional goodies, while a $50 investment nets you four of the startup’s collapsible propellers which can be used on other drone copters.
Drone technology demos were some of the most buzzed-about events at CES this year. For more flying, rolling, and spinning gadgets, check out PCMag’s video of the Jumping Sumo and other participants in Parrot’s annual Drone Show below.