Fotokite Phi: The Leashed Video Drone

Image courtesy of Indiegogo

Flying drones is a new and increasingly popular hobby, especially drones that can take pictures. Usually you would need a dedicated pilot or plenty of experience to truly utilize a photographic drone, unless you have a Phi. The Fotokite Phi, a $349 drone created by Sergie Lupashin’s team, houses a GoPro (not included) to take pictures and videos from high altitudes. Phi functions much like an oversized selfie stick because it is controlled by a retractable 8 meter leash which the user controls with hand motions similar to those used controlling an actual kite that allows the user to angle the GoPro and take pictures. The Phi’s design allows it to be folded up and stored in a small thermos-like case which can be easily carried, allowing for on-the-go photography. An additional waterproof carrying case can be brought for more extreme climates.

Image courtesy of Indiegogo

A shot of Fotokite Phi. Image courtesy of Indiegogo.

The Phi’s most obvious advantage is its usability by the average person. Its simple design allows anyone who can use a selfie stick to fly it, and Sergei Lupashin claims that it can be mastered in 5 minutes. Its portability also makes it more attractive. Completely collapsible and weighing in at only 12 oz, it is smaller and less bulky than other conventional drones.

A close up shot of Fotokite Phi. Image courtesy of Indiegogo.

A close-up shot of Fotokite Phi. Image courtesy of Indiegogo.

However, the Phi has disadvantages such as a cord that c get tangled up in trees or power lines, loud propellers that can be heard in GoPro footage that is taken from the drone, and a short battery life at only 15 minutes.

While the Phi is easy to use by the average person, it may also bring opportunity to serious photographers and journalists as well. Since it is tethered to the user, the Phi is exempt from drone regulations barring it from flying near people. This means that it could potentially be used for journalism during events like protests or rallies where normal ground pictures may not be sufficient.

However, the Phi also shares common issues with conventional drones, including noise and privacy. The Phi can be flown around people and in crowded areas, but this feature has a downside, as it makes peeping into windows, an invasion of privacy, far easier. Also, if flown in crowded areas the drone could cause noise complaints. Finally, there’s the classic fact – The Phi is a drone and as a drone, will collide with other objects. However, the Phi attempts to combat this flaw with its soft blades that automatically stop when they come in contact with other objects

The Phi is still in its crowdfunding stage on Indiegogo, and is expected to come out in 2016. It can be bought with a crowdfunding pack for around $250, but its sale price is estimated to be around $500.


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