These days, the unmanned aerial vehicle market — aka drones and quadcopters — is absolutely flooded with what companies deem “the next big thing.” From a suite of smart features and autonomous fly modes to obstacle avoidance and built-in 4K cameras, there’s no shortage of innovation as far as RC aircraft are concerned. But how far can these upgrades go? Well, according to a UAV company based in Westport, Connecticut, a whole hell of a lot further.
Launching today via the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter, a company by the name of FreeBird Flight has unveiled what it calls a “new standard in UAV airframe design, system performance, and safety,” which it names the FreeBird One.
Literally packed to the brim with functions, the FreeBird One dramatically ups the drone ante, albeit at a fairly steep price point. As of this writing, FreeBird Flight currently offers its next-gen quadcopter to a few limited Kickstarter backers at just $1,500. Though expensive, this does reflect a 63-percent discount off a planned retail price of around $4,000. Spendy? Sure. But when users who are interested in high performance see what’s under the hood (and what can be added under the hood) many may conclude that it’s worth the money.
For starters, FreeBird Flight outfitted the One with structurally closed rotors which allow pilots to operate the drone in rainy or snowy conditions without a decrease in function. Additionally, the sturdy 3D-printed SurroundFrame (more on that in a second) grants the UAV the ability to carry up to 20-pound payload. For users who yearn for a bird’s-eye view of what their aircraft sees, the FreeBird One also allows the viewing of a live 3D video feed via a VR headset, which not only achieves ultimate immersion but gives pilots precise control when navigating the craft near obstacles. Plus, who wouldn’t want to don a VR headset to see exactly what their drone sees? We certainly would.
“UAV technology is evolving rapidly, and quickly moving beyond the hobby and aerial video markets, into areas such as construction and public safety,” says Roger Freeman, FreeBird Flight’s founding partner and Chief Architect. “With that growth comes important responsibility for both those who operate them and those who develop and manufacture them. That’s why we’re thrilled to offer the safest airframe technology with our structurally enclosed SurroundFrame.”
So what is the SurroundFrame? In short, it’s a proprietary 3D-printed airframe and body built to supplement a variety of functions for the One. In long, it’s an incredibly durable, high-performance UAV frame that not only acts as a critical safety feature of the drone, but also allows FreeBird Flight to enclose the craft’s rotors, dramatically improve its impact resistance, and make it infinitely customizable. Each FreeBird One purchased either through Kickstarter or when the drone launches in earnest boasts multiple payload options and allows for future attachments from its heavy-duty threading located underneath its landing pads.
“With the introduction of FreeBird One, we hope to spur the industry to raise product safety and performance standards across the board by introducing FAA-friendly products that allow private-sector innovation to continue to flourish,” Freeman continues.
Performance-wise, the FreeBird One touts the ability to operate for roughly 30 minutes on a single charge (at a weight of 14 pounds), and it can travel at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. During takeoff or landing, it has the ability to climb and descend at roughly 3,000 feet per minute and features landing gear directly underneath the motor mounts — in fact the motor mounts double as the craft’s landing gear.
Currently, the FreeBird One has amassed 19 total backers on its Kickstarter campaign for just over $17k in funding to a $50k goal. Considering the company’s innovative approach and its revolutionary nature, it’s likely the One will exceed its funding expectations well before the campaign concludes.