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.
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.
Key to Phi's design is that it folds down and fits entirely inside a tube roughly the size of a whisky bottle.
With a camera it weighs just 350 grams (12.3 ounces).
To get it ready to fly, you just fold down the arms and twist the lock on top.
A button on its back turns on the quadcopter and then starts up the GoPro.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The company is working on possibly adding extra prop guards that would collapse behind the main guard.
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.