With manufacturing and technology costs for drones becoming lower and lower, Consumer drones are quickly becoming a top trend this year. It seems like every tech enthusiast across the nation has one or wishes he could get his hands on one. The fear of wrecking $1,600 worth of technology in a single flight no longer is a factor for early tech adopters. A company called xCraft is now looking to make that dream a reality for more and more consumers with the literal launch of their affordable quadcopter, dubbed the PhoneDrone. And they’ve done so in an innovative way that tends to elicit one of two reactions: “that’s amazing!” or, “that’s really, really dumb.”
What’s inside, and what’s not
The reason this drone can sustain its modest $300 price point is as much to do with what’s not included in the package as what is. The inventors of the device recognized that the main factors driving up the prices of consumer drones were all the fancy technology they needed to have built in under the hood- things like gyroscopes, GPS, wireless connectivity, and sophisticated cameras. They also realized that most of us already carry all those things around with us in our pockets. Modern smartphones are equipped with all these things and more, which is why xCraft decided to make your smartphone the “brains” of the operation and simply provide an affordable shell to get it off the ground. This allows the drone to perform sophisticated tasks like pre-determined missions, follow-me pathing, and return-to-home mode at less than a third of the price of drones with comparable features.
Consumer concerns and cloud control options
However, all this does require the owner to launch his or her valuable smartphone into the air, protected by a plastic casing and a neoprene lining. That brings a whole new meaning to smartphone travelling. Though the makers insist the device will be perfectly safe, and that the device will even accept waterproof cases for extra protection over water, it’s hard to account for every possible scenario right off the bat. Luckily, the drone is compatible with many different Apple and Android devices, some retailing for as low as $50, so you could easily buy a cheap or second hand phone to pilot the drone and still end up saving money. The device is also cloud-connected and can be controlled by another phone, tablet, or even an Apple Watch.
What’s it for?
Those as of yet uninitiated into the world of consumer drones may be wondering what the big deal is. There are a multitude of uses for unmanned aircraft, other than spying on your neighbors, and in a world where legislation is lagging behind technology, there are few restrictions on what can and cannot be done. This drone incorporates a unique periscope type device that allows your phone’s camera to take pictures and video from virtually all angles- much more interesting than straight-down shots. The manufacturer has said that the drone can also travel up to 35 miles per hour and reach heights of up to 10,000 feet, making it useful for capturing sweeping aerial shots of stunning scenery, filming a fast-moving subject like a car, motorcycle, or other vehicle, and taking the perfect selfie. You can also use the follow-me mode for tracking your movements, filming your runs, livestreaming your daily activities, or convincing your friends that the robots have gained sentience and are coming after them. The PhoneDrone team will be releasing the PhoneDrone Controller API to the market, meaning that developers will be able to incorporate the technology into their apps. In time, we could see a whole range of new apps and innovative programs designed to work with affordable drone technology.
After a successful kickstarter campaign and a feeding frenzy on Shark Tank, wherein all five shrewd investors scrambled for their checkbooks, PhoneDrone is really taking off. The devices are currently in pre-production and should be shipping out to early backers in September of 2016. They are still available for preorder on the xCraft website.
By Kayla Robbins