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Zano mini-drone ships this week despite apparent design issues

When the Zano mini-drone landed on Kickstarter last year, the project quickly gained a lot of attention before going on to become Europe’s most heavily crowdfunded project to date. More than 12,000 backers put up £2.3 million ($3.6m), enabling Wales-based Torquing to move ahead with the development of its autonomous flying machine.

The Zano was sold to backers as “an ultra-portable, personal aerial photography and HD video capture platform, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and intelligent enough to fly all by itself.” The funds came pouring in, with a minimum pledge of £139 ($215) securing an early version of the diminutive quadcopter.

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However, its June shipping date passed without any of the drones going out to early backers, and while that might not be unusual for many Kickstarter projects, a BBC report on Wednesday suggested the startup is still dealing with a number of design issues two months on.

Shipping soon

Ivan Reedman, leader the 10-person team building the Zano, told the BBC that Torque plans to start sending out the drone by the end of this week, though it appears the current unit falls short of what’s been promised.

A demonstration given to the BBC by the startup revealed that Zano’s all-important outside mode isn’t yet functioning, though indoors it managed to perform closer to expectations. The batteries, too, had to be changed after just five minutes – the project promised 10-15 minutes. As for the captured video, that was described in the report as being of “quite poor quality.”

On a positive note, Reedman said the majority of the current issues are software related and will be fixed in updates sent to users in the coming months, while on the hardware side, newly designed propellers that require less power mean the first batch of shipped devices should be able to offer an operating time closer to what was originally stated.

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Wary that some backers may be disappointed by the first version of Zano, Reedman says his company should have made a more concerted effort to remind people “that Kickstarter is about backing a project, not buying a product,” adding, “When you back a product there are technical risks.”

The team behind this hugely successful Kickstarter campaign will be hoping its supporters are an understanding – not to say patient – bunch as it continues to knock its Zano quadcopter into shape in an effort to meet expectations. With the first units expected to land in the hands of early backers in the coming days, it’ll be keen to push those software updates out just as soon as it can to create the Zano that excited so many backers last year.