Drone Startups part 11 – Fotokite

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.


Although I am amazed with a UAV and their versatility, I must admit that having a flying camera zooming by and zooming me in can sometimes be intimidating. It can be intimidating not because of the drone with the camera itself, but because I don’t always know who is behind that camera. If the drone operator would be immediately identifiable, there would be no problem.

That is exactly the issue Fotokite tries to solve. The idea was developed around following premises:

  • The regulatory picture is murky and evolving (let’s just mention that the FAA is likely to miss 2015. deadline for setting a UAV regulation and that the tethered aircraft are exempt from these rules)
  • Accountability is important – people are usually not quite thrilled while being the target of an unseen operator of a flying camera

The solution is a tethered, GoPro fitted, quadcopter with onboard algorithms that let it fly instantly and virtually under any conditions, without relying on piloting skills, GPS working or wifi failing.

Fotokite is designed to be launched and fully operational in one minute. To the user, flying the camera is as simple as holding a kite, and framing the picture is as easy as rotating your hand-held monitor, and the tether provides visual accountability for bystanders and property owners.



The man behind the project,Sergei Lupashin, a TED Fellow with 10+ years of autonomous systems experience, assembled an impressive team which includes robotics heavy-weights such as Prof. Raffaello D’Andrea. The project is supported by the Swiss National Centre of Competence for Research in Robotics – NCCR, already mentioned in one of the previous posts as supporters of Flying Donkey Challenge.

There are several concepts already that are enabling a drone to autonomously follow and film the moving object (AirDog and Hexo+). However, the Fotokite seems particularly well suited for use in media, providing birds-eye view, while allowing those around the device to immediately identify the camera operator. The price is unknown still, but despite that, it seems like a pretty cool tool that will be added to many reporters’ inventory quite soon.

Video and image courtesy of Fotokite.

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