The crowdfunding campaign for Fotokite Phi has taken off like a flying object with four propellers: In the first few hours alone, more than USD 50'000 have been raised by some 170 early adopters.
But let's take it from the top: I was recently invited for a sneak peek of the hottest new gadget on the block, the Fotokite Phi. I was about to unleash a quadcopter carrying a GoPro camera...
Perspective Robotics GmbH
The Zürich headquarters of Perspective Robotics is housed in an attic near the main station. I am not surprised that a start-up specialized in flying objects needs lots of air space for experimenting. Up here under the roof, they have plenty of that.
I am greeted by Frederic Poppenhäger, the man in charge of marketing and PR for the Fotokite Phi: "Our aim is to show investors that cutting-edge hardware can be developed, funded and delivered within a short amount of time."
Unlike software start-ups, those developing hardware solutions usually face higher upfront costs. But thanks to the ease and affordability of 3D printing, the young company has pushed out up to seven iterations of prototypes in just a few months.
After the crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo concludes, the young start-up is going to activate their supply and manufacturing chain. I am impressed by the fact that the team has mapped out their project from day 1 of development to the time the product is delivered to backers. Here is to hoping that the Phi will be delivered on time in Spring 2016!
Frederic confirms: "The key is to deliver the final product sooner rather than later." I know from my own experience that the downfall of crowdfunded hardware is often the time to market. In some cases, it can take up to a year for a product to appear on the doorsteps of backers. "This can be frustrating for backers if more innovative products have been funded in the meantime."
The Fotokite Phi uses few parts, keeping costs at a minimum when it comes to scaling the production for a mass market. The more I talk to Frederic and his colleagues here at their Zürich office, the more I am convinced that they are not just trying to create "yet another gadget". Instead, they have devised a product with investor (and consumer) appeal.
Time to unleash the Fotokite Phi Quadcopter!
My first reaction: The Fotokite Phi is surprisingly light, weighing less than an iPad mini. Apart from the ingenious, foldable design with few parts, the most clever innovation has got to be the 8 m/26 ft long retractable leash.
For one, it is the key component which classifies it as something other than a drone. A kite, possibly? With more and more cities restricting the use of drones, this is good news for visual storytellers, guerilla journalists and geeks like me...
Secondly, the tether makes the Phi safe for filming of crowds. The blue leash is a safety mechanism, but it is also a giveaway for anyone worried about their privacy. The person operating the aerial camera can easily be tracked down.
Controlling it is as easy as phi: To turn on the Fotokite Phi, I would simply give the device a quick twist. Once airborne, the Phi followed me like a dog on a leash. Absent of any kind of smartphone app or fancy remote, the Phi is incredibly easy to manipulate, though: The case storing the leash functions like a low-lewel joystick, so the altitude and direction can easily be adjusted.
In just a few months of development, this Swiss start-up has taught a GoPro camera to fly. So much innovation in such a small device - it's almost like a Swiss watch! And it makes me wonder what they will be innovating next...
Meet the Zürich based team behind the Fotokite Phi: Mathieu, Frederic, Karl, David, Adam and Lukas
PS. Hey Blendtec Guy, don't even think about blending the Fotokite Phi...
Update: The crowdfunding campaign has reached its goal of USD 350'000! In spring 2016, the makers will be able to ship the first batch of 1000 Fotokites to backers...
- The crowdfunding campaign is live on Indiegogo through Sept 18, 2015
- The suggested retail price is USD 349, but early adopters get the worm: The first few hundred Fotokite Phi's are going for as little as USD 259... Grab one while they're hot!