Danvers, MA-based CyPhy Works announced on Monday the launch of the Kickstarter campaign for the company’s first consumer oriented UAV, the LVL 1 Drone. The campaign is will run through June 17 and is looking to raise $250,000 to bring the LVL 1 Drone to market.
Traditionally, CyPhy Works manufactured tethered drones for industrial and military use but, the company has recently developed new technology that CEO Helen Greiner believes can bring a new type of consumer friendly drone to market.
“We think a lot of people have learned quite a bit about drones and want a rich feature set at a consumer price,” Greiner told DRONELIFE.
The LVL 1 Drone will carry a price tag of $495 and open up an entirely new angle of the commercial drone industry.
And I mean that quite literally – as the hexacopter’s motors are situated on an angle rather than completely level.
This is part of CyPhy Works’ Level-Up Technology which allows the LVL 1 Drone to fly completely level at all times.
Current consumer drone models tilt to the side or pitch forward when changing directions during flight. The tilted motors of the LVL 1 Drone compensate for this fact so that the drone (and, more importantly, the on board camera) stays completely flat when it is in flight.
Along with on-board image processing software, the titled motors produce an extremely stable image and therefore negated the need for a gimbal-mounted camera. Instead, the camera is mounted in the body of the drone in the front of the drone.
“We don’t need a gimbal because you are always flying level,” Greiner said, “No gimbal meant no landing gear which meant less weight. Of course, this means more flight time. Right now, [the LVL 1 Drone] gets 20 minutes of flight time but we think we can do better.”
In addition to CyPhy Works’ new Level-Up technology, the LVL 1 Drone will also feature an all new way to pilot the drone.
Using an iOS or Android phone/tablet isn’t a new concept but the LVL 1’s ‘Swipe to Fly’ control scheme is.
“People already know how to use a smartphone,” Greiner explained to DRONELIFE, “We wanted our users to be looking at a picture from a drone on their phone and have the controls be as intuitive as manipulating that picture.”
So controlling the LVL 1 Drone is exactly like controlling a zoomed in picture or map on your phone; to see what’s to the right of the frame you swipe right to left. When you are viewing such an image from the LVL 1’s livestream, this swipe will make the drone fly to the right.
You are not really piloting a drone in the traditional sense. You are instead constantly framing your picture or video and the drone is simply your recording device.
Getting used to such a new control model will take practice, which is why CyPhy Works has included a geofencing feature that allows you to physically pace out the area you want to fly in, set a floor and a ceiling and takeoff with no fear of flying into unwanted airspace.
Obviously, the LVL 1 Drone is a whole new way to take on consumer UAVs which, Greiner said, is why CyPhy Works opted for a Kickstarter.
“We want to build a community and a support network and have people test it out as we go into production,” she said, adding that parts of the drone’s software will be open sourced because CyPhy wants the drone to be hackable.
“We have a lot of dronies here [at CyPhy] and we asked them the question ‘what would it take for you to recommend a drone to a friend?’ The answers we got were of course, ‘it has to be portable, easy to fly, intuitive UI…’ so we started an internal project where our engineers were free to try things other people weren’t doing yet,” said Greiner.
The first LVL 1 Drones are scheduled for a wide release in February 2016.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com