3D Robotics

AIrDroids (PocketCopter) ceasing operations

3689651910?profile=originalSorry to see this notice from AirDroids, who had launched the PocketCopter on Kickstarter, but glad to see their list of "lessons learned". Manufacturing is really, really hard, and they were not the first or last Kickstarter project to get in over their head in the process of going from prototype to product. 

Dear Drone Lovers,

We are writing to let you know that AirDroids, Inc. is ceasing operations. As of this week, we have sent out units for all the orders that we received addresses for. Our company ran out of money a few months ago, but we have been able to fulfill all orders through a recapitalization of the company funded by the projects creators taking out tens of thousands of dollars in personal loans.

In this message we want to answer two questions. First, how did a project that raised nearly a million dollars run out of money? Second, what does this mean for our Kickstarter® backers and customers?

There are three primary factors that led to significantly greater costs than we originally anticipated. Some of the issues that arose could not have been predicted, others were attempts to make things better for our customers.

First, the unprecedented success of our Kickstarter® campaign meant that we manufactured around 20 times more orders than we originally anticipated. To address this challenge and to make the product more durable for our customers, we decided to do a complete redesign of the system. After seeking advice on how to handle the higher production numbers, we engaged contract engineers who had more experience in designing for higher production runs and who were specialized in designing plastic parts for injection molding. The cost for their services cut significantly into our budget.

Second, since the redesign caused delays in the production schedule, we decided to minimize further delays by making our molds and doing assembly in the United States, rather than outsourcing production to China or Taiwan. This approach was intended to give us the flexibility that we needed to make course corrections and was also a great opportunity to support local businesses. However, this decision significantly increased our mold and tooling costs.

Finally, given the success of our Kickstarter® campaign, we ordered extra parts to be able to build more units for post campaign sales. Much to our disappointment, our Shenzhen suppliers did not consider orders for 2000 units to be sizable enough to give us a large volume discount. We were forced, therefore, to estimate our market demand and our “part failure” rates in order to get the pricing necessary. Further, when the parts arrived, the “dead on arrival” rate was higher than we anticipated.

These key decisions, combined with the already high bill of materials and Kickstarter® and Amazon Payments taking an 8% cut of total funds raised, left us with a minimal financial cushion. In addition to these expenses, the cost of assembly, packaging, shipping, and salaries for our small manufacturing staff caused us to be significantly in the red financially.

The company’s leadership did not receive any profits or distributions off of this project, and took on over $100,000 in personal debt to be able to contribute additional capital to the company in order to assemble and ship all the units that were ordered. Of course, this is all due to our own decisions and we are not soliciting sympathy. Our hope is to provide you, our backers, with some context for what happened and perhaps help other makers with Kickstarter® dreams avoid similar mistakes.

Our small staff has been notified that they are being laid off. Unfortunately, upon the completion of the final orders, the company has ceased operations and will not be able to receive returns or send out additional parts or units, as there is neither staff nor money to do so. We have sent out all orders that we received addresses for. A small group of Kickstarter® backers never provided addresses in response to the backer survey we sent out and we have not been able to ship those orders. Also, some of the packages that were sent out could not be delivered by UPS as the address and contact information provided was incorrect or the recipient did not follow up with customs to meet local import requirements. 

We are putting our design files on our website, which you can access at www.airdroids.com/files.html. You may attempt to use these to generate your own spare parts, although please be advised that results created from a 3D printer may differ significantly from what we created using injection molded plastics and we make no guarantees regarding the designs and their functionality. Please use them at your own risk. 

With The Pocket Drone®, we wanted to provide our customers with a powerful user-friendly tool to enhance exploration and preserve memories. We are deeply grateful for the support and forbearance of all of our backers and customers. We have also been impressed and humbled by the amazing community of people who came together to improve upon the designs we generated and support other users. We wish you safe flight, and hope you will all continue to enjoy the magic of being able to see the world from a new perspective.

Team AirDroids

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  • In the description of the 'post mortem' text in the post, they have provided a link (www.airdroids.com/files.html), where we can find and re-use their design files. Clicking on the link shows a 404 ERROR.

    Does anyone have access to their design files?


  • * not as they expected

  • When backing a Kickstart scheme, any potential backer needs to ask themselves... can I afford to lose the $/£ I may pledge?

    If the answer is no, or the prime motive is to 'buy' a product... then frankly they should not even consider pledging.

    The Kickstarters are typically looking for capital to help them achieve a goal, in return for the $/£ pledge they commit to various rewards, but these are NOT guaranteed... hence it is wrong for backers to whine when their reward does not materialise or perform as expected.

    It seems to me that most 'backers' do not understand the concept and believe that they are entering into a purchase/sale transaction.

    Of course if a Kickstarter sets up a campaign with the intention of defrauding backers for the sole aim of generating a financial gain, then yes it would be right and proper to cry from the roof tops.

    But if a Kickstart campaign has been successfully funded and consequently the outcome is not the (over ambitious?) result that may have been touted at the start of the campaign, sorry but there are two parties to blame - the Kickstarter AND the backers.

    If I went to my local bank for funding using only the limited promotional material most Kickstart campaigns use, I would be politely asked to leave the premises. Yet, backers are willingly handing money over to complete strangers and then act surprised/disgruntled when things turn out as they expected.

    +1 caveat emptor 

  • Caveat emptor applies to investors as well.

  • Sorry to see this stop but it had a rough beginning starting with the rock solid in flight promo videos which it was found out were taken with a completely different, larger multicopter that had a large gimbal camera and such. I have found that kickstarter is a great way to loose less money than if you funded the complete project out of pocket and should only be used if your product is actually ready to be mass produced. The projects that reach their funding goals are usually priced at cost or slightly below, along with stretch goals that add features not initially accounted for in the price. Along with other "rewards" such as T shirts and what not that add more shipping headaches than it's worth. Bad parts from the manufacturer and other cost over runs are rarely considered. Kickstarter and Amazon payments take a chunk and the city you live in may take a chunk for doing business there so the $ is not tax free. All of which takes up time and leaves no $ left over for patents and R&D which is what most of these projects seem to spend most of the money on. It's easy to get excited about a project that reaches its funding goal until you really look at the prices and promised features that show the funding goal to be far below what it should have been.

    Case in point I watched the "Coolest" cooler make over 13 million$. With over 60,000 backers, if each cooler is just one dollar below cost, he'll be 60,000 dollars in the hole right there. Add in the usual amount of returns, people complaining of defects, money spent on the R&D upgrades they have announced and that 60,000 loss can grow much larger real quick. Facebook doesn't always show up and buy your coolers for a couple billion like they did for some glasses. I hope it succeeds though as there is no reward without some risk.

  • Moderator


    true, I didn't go through Kickstarter comments, and I see some negative comments. I relied totally on the post. After backing few Kickstarter projects, I have my own experience in "no show" products. so I felt this is better than that, but seems I was wrong. Atleast, they shared their experience.

     I remember the full episode, what happened during their campaign and comments by you and many others here at DIYD. I also agreed with you on how they claimed those videos done by pocket drone. 

  • I'm sorry to see this venture fail, you can't sue anyone with no money.

    If one of the founders is an IP Attorney, he is a pretty lousy one at that. Manufacturing was going to be only one of their problems.

    If the attorney was any good, he would have known that I hold the patent on that particular folding concept of a multi-rotor UAV, the folding concept that is central to the appeal of this drone. The said concept has been in production under license since 2008 so there was no real reason that they didn't know about it.

    It's pretty disturbing that this infringement is supported by a media that doesn't do any research and acts as a "fence" for stolen property.

    Take a little advice from a design engineer with 35 years of experience.

    When you first get your fabulous idea or concept for a new product, the next step is searching the patent database to see if there will be infringing issues. Deal with these first before you invest a lot of your or your customer's money.

    If Pocket Copter had approached us in the beginning, we could have provided a license for a very affordable fee and even helped with the engineering and promotion of the product because it would be in our interest as well for the product to succeed since it wasn't in conflict with our high-end commercial applications.

  • I hope that (ex)CEO can set the record straight, as accusations of liars and crooks are flying all over, be it on RCG or Kickstarter  ... Edit: Including this forum: Irresponsible and immoral

  • Judging from the comments on Kickstarter, it appears that many backers who did have correct  addresses did not get anything, contrary to what the letter claims. And those who did received nothing close to anything flying more than a few seconds ...

    Meanwhile, I find this, err, peculiar ... : The CEO and co-founder of Airdroids claims this on his LinkedIn Page:

    "Founded the world’s largest network of community organizations dedicated to teaching people to build and operate personally owned drones and promoting socially beneficial applications of the technology." He apparently is referring to this site.  World's largest?

    There are many things that do not seem to add up in this story ...

  • Bill I do not actually disagree with anything you say. I clearly have far too much time on my hands today. I just thought it odd that the founder was an IP Attorney by trade and one of the people close to the project made reference to a patent pending (presumably a design patent) and a potential infringement by Hobbyking (on DIYD). And the end result was so, so terrible. I mean it does-not-fly terrible. Maybe  I should have looked a little closer when I got a hit on the trademark when I thought that I was searching on patents. So, enough from me today.

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