The original DJI Phantom quadcopter is now priced below US$500, and it's designed to carry a GoPro camera. However, while the copter could conceivably be stuffed into a backpack, doing so might be a little ... awkward. That's why the guys at San Diego-based AirDroids created the Pocket Drone. It squeaks in under the $500 mark and is made to carry a GoPro, but it also folds down for easy transport. What's more, its battery runtime is about twice that of the Phantom.
Two of the Pocket Drone's three prop arms swing in to either side of the third arm, which itself telescopes down. The landing struts also retract, and even the propeller blades fold back to one side. That prop design is additionally claimed to make the drone safer, as the propellers will swing back should they hit an obstacle (such as a person), instead of cutting into it.
When everything is folded down and otherwise withdrawn, the aircraft has a smaller footprint than that of a 7-inch tablet, and is less than three inches (7.6 cm) thick.
One charge of the lithium-polymer battery should be good for about 20 minutes of flight time, with a GoPro attached. That relatively long runtime is due largely to the fact that the Pocket Drone is a tricopter as opposed to a quadcopter – this means that it's lighter, and has one less motor to power. It's also claimed to be considerably quieter than a quadcopter, and more maneuverable.
Along with real-time remote control (via an included controller or an app on a mobile device), the drone can also fly on its own using plotted GPS waypoints, or it can automatically follow a GPS-enabled mobile device. Additionally, its flight control software is open-source, in case users have any bright ideas for functions that they'd like to add.
AirDroids is currently raising production funds for its drone on Kickstarter, and has already more than quintupled its financial goal. A pledge of $495 will get you a Pocket Drone of your own, when and if they're ready to take to the skies.
You can see some of them in action, along with footage shot from them, in the pitch video below.
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