The Pocket Drone comes ready to fly out of the box, can be deployed in less than 20 seconds, and as its name suggests, folds up for portability, with a smaller footprint than a seven inch tablet.
After seeing a gap in the market for a powerful and easy to use drone, Timothy Reuter, AirDroids co-founder and president, contacted with TJ Johnson, an engineer and intellectual property attorney.
“We iterated through a number of different designs until we had something that met all of our constraints regarding power, size, and elegance,” says Reuter. A former CEO of a consumer products company, Chance Roth later joined the team to lead manufacturing and business development.
Twenty-seven iterations later, and the three member team has raised almost half a million dollars on Kickstarter for the Pocket Drone.
“No one had previously focused on examining the aerodynamics of small hovering aircraft, so we were in uncharted territory,” says Reuter. “Not only did we have to design the vehicle itself, but we had to develop our own methods to solve the problems.”
The Pocket Drone is designed to carry a camera, and is operated with a radio controller or a tablet interface. “You can use it manually through direct control, or preprogram its flight path and drink some coffee while it carries out the mission you have assigned it,” adds Reuter.
It can fly at a maximum speed of 40 mph, and up to a mile away from the pilot. A “follow me” mode also enables users to fly hands free. Other features include:
- GPS position hold.
- Go to a map point.
- Altitude hold.
- Follow a GPS device.
- Programmed flight paths.
- Direct user control.
The flight controller and mobile app are programmable and can be modified with open source tools and plugins.
“At its heart lies a processor which takes a collection of sensor inputs (gyroscopic, acceleration, barometric pressure, compass, and GPS) to allow the unit to understand where it is in space,” explains Reuter.
TJ, a visual designer, envisioned the parts coming together in his mind, and then worked in CAD software to turn his ideas into a digital model. The parts were then created using a combination of 3D printers, a 4 Axis CNC mill, laser cutter, small prototyping injection molding machine, and hand fabrication.
“After assembling this into a working unit we would sit down together to test the latest iteration and decide where it wasn’t meeting the design requirements we had for size, power, and aesthetics,” adds Reuter.
To keep the drone light and strong, the team used carbon fiber and advanced high impact plastics.
“There is a balance in anything that flies, in that the heavier the object becomes, the more power it takes to stay in the air,” he adds. “It took a long time to reach the balance we wanted between weight, power, flight time, and payload.”
According to the team, the primary innovation, and one of the most difficult aspects of the design, was harnessing the power of advanced hacker kits, while still having a product that was easy to use and in a uniquely small package. The team doesn’t believe that any of this would have been possible three year ago.
“The combination of low cost rapid prototyping tools like affordable 3D printers and CNC machines, open source robotics software, and crowdfunding platforms, is what has allowed us to bootstrap an innovative flying robot product within a relatively short time span,” explains Reuter. “We expect to see this approach to product design and business development become increasingly common in the coming years.”
To stay ahead of the competition the team plans to continuously and rapidly innovate, expanding sales internationally and into retail. “We are already working on changing the way flight control happens, getting rid of the old systems and giving them more intelligence,” adds Reuter. “We can't wait to see the old legacy systems no longer be necessary.”
With a goal to “democratize the sky,” the team is well on their way with nearly half a millionraised and 33 days left to go.
To support the Pocket Drone, visit www.kickstarter.com.