X

Fotokite Phi simplifies aerial photography (pictures)

This quadcopter makes grabbing shots from above as easy as, well, flying a kite, and it folds up small to take nearly anywhere.

Joshua_Goldman.jpg
Joshua_Goldman.jpg

Joshua Goldman

See full bio
fotokite-18.jpg
1 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Fotokite Phi

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.

fotokite-16.jpg
2 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Bring your own GoPro

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.

fotokite-11.jpg
3 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

It fits in this tube

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

fotokite-13.jpg
4 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Lightweight

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

fotokite-2.jpg
5 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Twist to lock

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

fotokite-19.jpg
6 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Power up

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

fotokite-3.jpg
7 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Point, turn, go

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.

fotokite-4.jpg
8 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Let go and start recording

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.

fotokite-5.jpg
9 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Gesture flight control

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.

fotokite-8.jpg
10 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Removable battery

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.

fotokite-9.jpg
11 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Safe propellers

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.

fotokite-15.jpg
12 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Even greater protection

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

fotokite-21.jpg
13 of 13 Lori Grunin/CNET

Coming in 2016

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.

More Galleries

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

More Galleries

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

95 Photos
Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

More Galleries

Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

84 Photos
24 things you should never, ever google

More Galleries

24 things you should never, ever google

25 Photos
The Absolute Best Games on Nintendo Switch

More Galleries

The Absolute Best Games on Nintendo Switch

36 Photos
The 51 Best VR Games

More Galleries

The 51 Best VR Games

53 Photos
Trackside With the 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06

More Galleries

Trackside With the 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06

47 Photos
DIY scratched screen repair: Magic and myths

More Galleries

DIY scratched screen repair: Magic and myths

10 Photos