Cameras drone are everywhere these days but for the majority of everyday users, you can only get so excited about a new model that is slightly smaller, iteratively faster and offers a minutely longer amount of flight time.
As cool as all of that stuff undoubtedly is, it’s less revolutionary than evolutionary.
Thank goodness, then, for the Fotokite Phi — a new type of GoPro-compatible camera-carrying drone which goes back to the drawing board and tries something new. Previously the subject of a successful Indiegogo campaign, Phi is officially launching to new customers on Tuesday, carrying a special holiday price of $249.
“What we’re releasing out into the wild is the world’s first tethered consumer drone system,” CEO Chris McCall told Digital Trends. “Not only is it very accessible from a price perspective, but it works unlike any other drone you’ve seen before.”
As it happens, “tethered consumer drone” doesn’t truly describe Phi. Instead, this foldable quadcopter is part drone and part kite.
“The system is completely self-flying,” McCall continued. “It’s like a kite which produces its own wind. The interaction between the user and the Fotokite is quite a bit simpler than a traditional drone that a person has to operate and orientate in 3D space. With this solution, you’re physically connected to it which makes the Phi far more intuitive to navigate.”
By making a tethered drone that works through gesture controls, a lot of the problems with traditional airborne camera systems (think flyaways, reliability on GPS signals, and difficulty flying indoors) are alleviated. Instead of relying on joystick controls or camera tracking algorithms, Fotokite can be maneuvered using nothing more complex than the force of your wrist.
You can even pass it from one person to the other just as easily as handing a kite to your friend. Should Phi somehow become accidentally untethered, the drone will automatically begin a controlled descent and power off upon landing.
As noted, you will need to add your own GoPro to use this drone as it’s designed, but as ultra-portable drone-based filming solutions go, this certainly looks like it is worth a second take.