Crowdfunded drones flew to new heights in 2014 as evidenced by the millions of dollars invested into new UAV prototypes and manufactured models. Whether it be emergency-response drone networks or tiny crafts that can fit in your pocket, drones of all types benefitted from micro-investments via sites like Kickstarter. Here are five concepts that fared particularly well.
On your mark (GPS mark), get set, Ghost Drone! San Francisco-based developer Ehang designed a drone that allows users to utilize a smartphone as a control interface rather than a physical controller — control via gyroscope is an option. Users mark GPS points on a map rather than steering. Like its titular spirit, the drone will float to the destination automatically. Features include “follow me” mode and auto-home return. Ghost drone has haunted up six times its funding goal of $100,000 ($612,688 as of Dec. 19) and can be pre-ordered here.
AeriCam is banking its crowdfunding hopes on a little drone that could. The Anura quadcopter can go anywhere with its user and includes propellers and arms that can fold up to make the UAV the size of a smartphone. Like the Ghost Drone, Anura can fly via smartphone controls and also offers live-streaming and video recording that can be uploaded to an iPhone or Android via Wi-Fi. Creator Jason Lam told DroneLife, that his team is working on upgrading from 640 mp to “possibly have a HD camera option, either built in, or as an add on.” As of Dec. 19, Anura had 716 backers on Kickstarter and the project had attracted a sizeable investment pledge of $147,509 — just over its $100,000 goal (funding for the project was canceled by the project creator 2 days ago).
For those who want a little more adventure (and have watched Flash Gordon one too many times), British-based company Malloy Aeronautics is developing the Hoverbike. Billed as offering the “simplicity of a motorbike and the freedom of a helicopter,” the Hoverbike will fly “like a quadcopter, and can be flown unmanned or manned, while being a safe – low level aerial workhorse with low on-going maintenance,” Malloy says.
The designer added that when coupled with a 3DR Pixhawk flight controller, Hoverbike “can fly by itself on a pre-determined flight path and return to home.”
Fueled by an Indiegogo campaign, PlexiDrone launched a $100,000 campaign in 2014 – and raised a whopping $1 million. With an estimated delivery date of April 2015, the quadcopter promises an array of impressive features – a multiple swarm mode (allowing several of the drones to film multiple views via either a smartphone, tablet or Bluetooth hub), obstacle avoidance sensors and speech recognition capability, all in a three-pound package.
Two selfie models that really took off in 2014 were Hexo+ and Airdog. Another Kickstarter darling, Hexo+ sports some of the same features as other selfie models but with a twist – the UAV is attuned to follow movements rather than a GPS waypoint and will fly a predetermined parameter. A user can simply “pinch and set” a course using an available app and touch screen controller on a smart device to frame shots. “You now have an intelligent flying camera tracking your exact trajectory and filming your every move,” the company’s promo claims. Developed by Squadrone System, Hexo+ made a seriously splash in the crowdfunding pond in June, surpassing the $50,000 pledge mark in 37 minutes. Investors fully funded the hexacopter concept by July 15. The now-closed campaign drew 2,336 backers and raised $1.3 million in pledges.
Like a faithful puppy – albeit with four copter rotors rather than legs – the Airdog by Latvian company Helico is eager to follow its sporting owner anywhere. The selfie drone is marketed as an action sports UAV and will autonomously follow the jumps and jolts of off-road motorcyclists, surfers, snowboarders and skiers capturing their gravity-defying moves with a high-quality GoPro Action camera. Airdog garnered a huge following, raising $1.3 million and 1,357 followers from Helico’s Kickstarter campaign.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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