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Fotokite Phi GoPro Carrying Quadcopter

An easy-to-use tethered drone, with accountability at its core

by Josh Rubin
on 18 August 2015

Utilizing the same technology as their professional model (used by the BBC for special programming and broadcast coverage), Swiss electronics company Perspective Robotics AG has just announced their consumer-oriented quadcopter follow-up, the Fotokite Phi. Up now on Indiegogo, this unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)—more commonly known of as a drone—snuggly holsters a GoPro camera and takes direction from a tether, rather than a GPS or remote piloting. Not only is it user-friendly, it's a safe way to fly for drone hobbyists and those looking to capture great aerial photography and visuals.

We first became acquainted with Sergei Lupashin, Perspective Robotics' CEO, when he demo'd the Fotokite Pro to attendees of TED 2014. There, he introduced a drone on a leash—much like the one on the Phi, only its market was broadcast journalist and professionals. As he shares with CH, "We believe the Fotokite has a different accountability because it's on a leash." Accountability is a hot topic in the drone world—especially regarding privacy and policy concerns.

There's more to the Fotokite Phi than accountability, however. The device can fold up small enough to be stowed in tube and easily stashed. And, even when carrying a GoPro, it still only weights 12 ounces—making it the lightest in its class of drones. One weight-saving solution was to have the drone's battery also power the GoPro, meaning the camera's heaviest component, the battery, can be left on the ground. The self-retracting leash itself extends 26 feet for high flying and, if it should happen to escape this tether, a default setting brings the drone back to the ground using the same self-landing scheme employed when the battery is near depletion. It's noteworthy that the 26 foot tether attaches with a simple clip which makes it easy to add in an extension, though given the 100 meter Bluetooth range between the handheld remote and drone, we wouldn't suggest extending further than that.

Most importantly, the Fotokite Phi is intuitive. The gesture control system upon which it has been built keeps things simple. It takes off in the direction it was placed and can be angled and redirected with a simple tug. All of this stems from patented algorithms, that control the guide the drone and its relationship to the tether. With control so transparent, the Fotokite Phi lends ease, safety and accountability in a way not seen elsewhere in the booming drone market.

You can score a Fotokite Phi with a $349 contribution to their Indiegogo campaign. (GoPro not included.) Perspective Robotics expects to deliver devices in early 2016.

Images by Josh Rubin, video courtesy of Perspective Robotics

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