Drones on Leashes Debut at Ted 2014

Sergei Lupshin, a roboticist based in Zurich, revealed his new “leashed quadcopter drones” at at TED 2014.  Lupshin calls them “Fotokites” because they look like a kite and do not require any special piloting skills to operate. They also provide accountability for the drone’s activity by connecting them to their user. 

“It’s like a kite, so the safety situation is very different,” Lupshin assured the audience before launching the drones over their heads at TED, the annual ideas conference that got under way today in Vancouver, Canada.

Fotokites use standard dog leashes, Lupshin says. But thanks to software on board the Fotokites, the drones always fly at the same angle relative to their “pilots,” no matter where that person moves, allowing for steady control over photos and video shot from above. He demonstrates this dog-like behavior by walking around the stage as the three drones follow.

Lupshin sees not only journalists using the Fotokites, but also “everyone from firefighters to archaeologists.” Their small design, weighing in at around one pound, makes them easy to transport.  Three Fotokites were carried in a small suitcase before Lupshin released them above the conference audience in a demonstration. 

We can expect a commercial version of the leashed drone to be available by the end of this year. One bonus of the Fotokite: it doesn’t need FAA approval.