The project, which is looking to raise $300,000, is different from other drones on the market; this one doesn’t really give you much to do at all – there’s no controller unit, and there’s no app. You can just about control which way it’s facing via the tether attached to the drone.
Essentially it’s a self-flying drone attached to a piece of clever string that can interpret gestures as controls.
Having had a quick play around, it’s actually more fun for a novice drone pilot than other more capable, user-controlled drones, and you won’t be worrying about breaking it.
That said, you won’t be doing any flips or other acrobatics here, so if that’s what you want, look elsewhere.
The Phi (pronounced like ‘fee’) is based on the Fotokite demoed on stage at TED by its creator Sergei Lupashin, except that it’s smaller, and more affordable.
During the crowdfunding campaign the cheapest tier to net you a Fotokite Phi is $249, but there are only 50 available at this price. The next level is $259 (of which there are 100 units), or alternatively, if you want one of the first 25 to be made, that’ll cost you $1,000.
As there’s very little for you to control as a pilot of the device, you’re free to pretty much just concentrate on whatever you’re trying to record.
You can still control which way its facing and how high it’s flying though by pressing a single button and giving your wrist a bit of a flick.
Fotokite says that the device is really aimed at anyone who might want or need aerial photography, from someone wanting to get aerial photography of a wedding to real-estate agents and hobbyists.
The leash also means that the drone is considerably more palatable to the general public too – or at least, it should. With a tether, you can see immediately who’s controlling it and there’s no fear that it’s going to go shooting off somewhere. It also ensures that the drone stays within ‘line of sight’ rules that govern drone usage in many countries.
Before any of that though, it needs to meet its Indiegogo goal. And you’ll need to buy (or already own) a GoPro camera. A GoPro 3, 3+ or 4 will fit just fine, and takes the overall weight of the drone to around 350 grams.
Flight time of the whole rig is around 15 minutes, but the batteries are interchangeable and charge directly from a USB.
As well as being easy to operate, it’s also pretty simple to transport – you just need to fold it upwards and slide it back into its tube container.
Once the campaign is over, the Phi will cost $500 to buy.