Europe’s most successful Kickstarter project is finally ready to deliver the tiny drone that won more than £2.3m in backing last November.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Zano drone which the company hopes to start sending to backers next week will not at first deliver what was promised last year.
I travelled to Pembroke Dock this week to find out just how challenging it is to deliver on the promises you make in a crowdfunding project.
The Torquing company captured the imagination of the Kickstarter crowd with a promotional video showing the Zano drone following a mountain bike along a trail, hovering above a dinner table to grab a picture and even capturing someone diving from a cliff into the sea.
But backers grew increasingly impatient as the promised June shipping date came and went and Torquing provided little information.
Now the firm is trying to engage with its community of supporters, which is perhaps why they invited me to come to the industrial park on which they are based.
I found a small team, headed by Australian technologist Ivan Reedman, testing the first batch of Zanos to come off the production line.
They look impressive and packing so much into so small a space has obviously required a lot of ingenuity.
“We had to get the swarming network, the GPS, and the wireless network all in a smaller footprint than on a mobile phone,” Mr Reedman explained.
But I had been promised the first public demo of the mini-drone and this was where the problems began.
The Zano’s appeal is as a device that can follow you outside whatever you are doing and deliver high-quality footage. But, although we tried it in the open air, Ivan explained that outside mode was not yet working so that as soon as it tried to lock on to a GPS signal, it crashed.
Indoors, it functioned slightly better.
Torquing’s commercial director Reece Crowther launched it from an Android app – still not publicly available – and steered it around a large space, showing off its obstacle avoidance capabilities.
But he could not make it hover on the spot and in less than five minutes he had to land it to change batteries, despite promises of around 15 minutes’ flight time. What’s more, the short amount of video footage captured by the drone was of quite poor quality.
Nevertheless, the company is determined to start shipping the Zano to backers at the end of this week.
Reece Crowther says all of the issues relate to the software and will be solved by updates delivered to customers over the coming months.
“We thought, ‘the hardware’s there, the hardware’s future proofed – why delay?’,” he said.
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