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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Fotokite Phi

Bring your own GoPro

It fits in this tube

Lightweight

Twist to lock

Power up

Point, turn, go

Let go and start recording

Gesture flight control

Removable battery

Safe propellers

Even greater protection

Coming in 2016

The Fotokite Phi from Perspective Robotics AG is designed to make flying a quadcopter for aerial photos and video more affordable and accessible. Following the same path as its professional version that's in use by the BBC and other news outlets, the Phi eschews a remote controller or mobile app for a simple retractable leash.

The Fotokite Phi is currently on Indiegogo with a crowdfunding goal of $300,000. Earlybird backers can get one for $260, which converts to £165 and AU$355. Once those and its other earlybird contributions are gone, you can secure one for $350 (roughly AU$475 and £225). The company expects to be able to ship in early 2016.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

The Phi has a simple mount in front that houses a GoPro Hero3 or Hero4 camera. The housing can be aimed straight down for shots from directly overhead or tilted up for getting out in front or behind a subject.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

Key to Phi's design is that it folds down and fits entirely inside a tube roughly the size of a whisky bottle.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

With a camera it weighs just 350 grams (12.3 ounces).

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

To get it ready to fly, you just fold down the arms and twist the lock on top.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

A button on its back turns on the quadcopter and then starts up the GoPro.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

To start flying, you simply point it in the direction you want to record, make a quick turn with your wrist (similar to twisting in a lightbulb) and the props spin up.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

The retractable Smart Leash can extend up to 26 feet (8 meters). Since it's tethered, there's no need for GPS or other sensors to keep the Phi hovering in place -- indoors or outside.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

The Smart Leash has its own processor and sensors letting you control the Phi by pressing and holding a button and moving the leash in the direction you want it to go.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

The current prototypes fly for around 8 to 10 minutes, depending on wind conditions. The battery will be removable, though, and can be charged while in the Phi via USB.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

The propellers are made from a soft plastic and spin at a slower speed than other quadcopters. A prop guard is built into the arm as well.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

The company is working on possibly adding extra prop guards that would collapse behind the main guard.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

If the company reaches its $300,000 campaign goal, it's targeting early 2016 to ship the initial batch.

"Given the failure/delay rate on drone-related Kickstarters, we've chosen to make our estimated shipping date conservative," said Perspective Robotics AG's CEO Sergei Lupashin.

Backing crowdfunded projects comes with some risk. Be sure to read Indiegogo's conditions before you make a contribution to a campaign.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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