​PowerUp drone lets you fly like paper, get high like planes

Nothing is safe from the drone effect at CES. Now, even the humble paper plane can be fitted with propellers and driven with your smartphone. Or, if you want to get in the cockpit, with your head.


The PowerUp FPV is part paper airplane, part drone.

Claire Reilly/CNET

Let's get one thing straight -- this isn't the kind of paper airplane that your grandpa taught you to make. The PowerUp FPV is a live streaming paper airplane drone that is part origami masterpiece, part VR experience and all fun.

While there are fleets of drones on show here at CES in Las Vegas, plenty of them are high-priced toys and most of them are also heavy enough to have to conform to regulations from the likes of the US Federal Aviation Authority. Not so the PowerUp FPV.

At just 2 ounces (well under the 8-ounce FAA limit), the PowerUp is made from heavy-duty paper, with a rod that runs down the centre, connecting the propellers at the back to the motor at the front. Connect it to your smartphone via Wi-Fi and you can launch the plane with the swipe of a finger and pilot it by moving your phone from side to side.

But you always wanted to be a pilot right? So put your smartphone in the accompanying FPV (first-person view) headset, or your own Google Cardboard or VR device, and you can control the plane by moving your head.

The rotating camera on top will also send live-streamed video direct from the "cockpit" to your headset so you get "the feeling of riding a plane" according to the PowerUp team. And if you want to see your bemused reaction on screen, turn the drone-top camera around to get a selfie as you launch.

The basics:

  • Reversible camera (VGA resolution)
  • 200-metre Wi-Fi range (219 yards)
  • 10 minutes fly time
  • Rubberised nose
  • Replaceable battery and 'pop in place' parts
  • Includes ready to fold paper and traceable designs

PowerUp says the FPV has a lightweight "uncrashable" design (or more correctly, as one of PowerUp demo guys told us, "pilots don't have crash landings, they have 'hard' landings"). Full disclosure: Due to the sheer numbers of people on the show floor we didn't get to see the drone mid-flight, but it's a cute design with plenty of promise.

The FPV drone is currently in the final stages of a Kickstarter campaign (with more than four times its goal budget already pledged at the time of writing). It's selling for $179 through Kickstarter (around AU$255 or £120), though there are plans to bring it to retail soon for $199, or $149 without the headset (AU$280/AU$210; £135/£100).

That may seem like a steep price on paper, but the PowerUp FPV lets you create your own drone designs again and again, and they even suggest you could make an FPV jet boat if you're adventurous. That'd certainly be something worth showing to Grandpa.

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