Whenever I play with the miniature computer in my pocket that I call a phone, I often think, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to lose this in a tree far from where I am?” PhoneDrone, a new crowdfunding project on Kickstarter, envisions a world where this is possible. The enterprise wants to turn smartphones into drones, combining all the thrill of unmanned aviation with the existential fear of losing one’s phone to a gust of wind. With 36 days left to go on the campaign, PhoneDrone is already over a quarter of the way to its $250,000 goal.
Smartphones already contain many of the same core components as drones: a small computer that connects to the outside world, with cameras and other sensors on board, all powered by batteries. Using the app that comes with PhoneDrone, a user can program a flightpath for their phone, put it inside the drone exoskeleton, and watch as their new drone flies and films according to plan.
PhoneDrone is designed for a wide swath of Androids and iPhones, and it doesn’t have to fly autonomously; using a second phone as a hand-held control station, a human pilot can steer an airborne DronePhone. A $99 pledge gets a supporter the PhoneDrone electronics, app, the drone’s own battery, and instructions on how to 3D print the drone body so they can build a PhoneDrone for themselves. A $199 early bird package includes the assembled drone and app, but it’s limited run of 100 is already pledged out. Don’t fret, aspiring PhoneDroners can still get the standard package for $249. PhoneDrone is expected to ship in November, just in time for another holiday season of brand-new drone pilots.