From Makezine:

Sergei Lupashin has a PhD from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), and is currently doing post-doctoral work with the University of Zurich’s Robotics and Perception Group.

Sergei came to the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC) in New York City to demonstrate his fotokite, an autonomous quadcopter tethered on a small dog leash. He explains that by constraining the robot with the leash, he is able to simplify the dynamics it has to deal with. The robot is programmed to maintain a set angle, and effectively hovers at the end of the leash. A camera mounted on the robot provides an effect that is a cross between an airborne pet and a steady cam.

This was one of my favorite moments of the conference.

More details on Fotokite here. Sergei tells me it's a PX4-powered copter with custom code.

Views: 4051

Comment by HeliStorm on October 13, 2013 at 6:06pm
This is great! I really hope a small, light, extremely portable, and ultimately VERY SAFE camera equipped UAS becomes available for the general consumer for about the price of an entry level DSLR. I don't find it hard ro imagine people carrying micro drones around to snap cool aerial pictures of them, or their intended subject.

For example there is a place I hike semi-frequently where there is a point which hangs out about 12 from the cliffs edge. I have always imagined a shot of me standing out on the point looking over the dropoff. Unfortunately the only way to effectively get the shot would be aerial, or a pole with a camera. The aerial shot would be cooler. I want a quad which can be hauled in a back pack, PUT in place somewhere in the air (note, not actually hand placed in a spot, but so easily flown there, it feels as natural as say, setting a camera on a rock to get a certain angle) and have it shoot the shots I would like. Then, I tell it to come back to me, and it does. Stow and go.

Alright smart people. Let's do this. Haha.
Comment by BluSky1 on October 13, 2013 at 6:55pm
I put my full support behind DARC
Its good to see a classification system based on size,weight and how high a drone goes rather than treating them all like predators. The FAA should start taking notes =)

Comment by HeliStorm on October 13, 2013 at 6:56pm
I just tried this with a micro quad and monofilament and it works! Hubsan h107, and a fishing line. Three quarters throttle. That simple.Wow.!
Comment by Gary McCray on October 13, 2013 at 7:06pm

This is a truly significant demo.

The potential is enormous, it could make use of even smaller, lighter Hubsan style micro quad copters and could even include leash angle, yaw control and camera pointing in the retractable leash handle.

For that matter it could be powered from the handle and use a lighter Kevlar tether with ultrathin power and serial communication wire built in.

Although still not necessarily outside the jurisdiction of the FAA, the intrinsic safety resulting from the light weight, low power safety and immediate control would make it much easier to convince authorities that it was a safe device for the general public to use freely and even commercially.

Both tethers and extreme miniaturization might prove extremely important for the real world future significance of multicopters.

There are already a few military tethered ground powered multicopters, but they are fairly large and you would definitely not want one landing on your head.

With these, I am thinking 2 to 4 ounce all up weight maybe and enough surface area where terminal velocity is not too high.

In any case, definitely makes you think.

Comment by HeliStorm on October 13, 2013 at 7:43pm
Gary...after my basic first attempt at repeating this, with a success, I am most certainly thinking! I had discussed the ideas of a tethered system with people before, but everyone I spoke with assumed you would have to have a control system. This guy completely disproved that theory. Now, a little more control would be nice, but this is such an out of the box first step.
Comment by HeliStorm on October 13, 2013 at 9:19pm
Here is a quick video of me successfully copying the technique in this demo with an Hubsan H107c
Comment by HeliStorm on October 13, 2013 at 9:30pm
The one thing I notice is, I think the Hubsan has a built in safety feature to kill the motors if they exceed a certain draw of power. I have noticed it will shut off when it hits something, or crashes, and I noticed running this at a little above half throttle sometimes if I pulled the string to quick it would rev the motors to compensate, then power off. The first time I did it, I.thought I may have killed the tiny board. But, it flew again without a string attached just fine. A couple flights later, while tethered, it died again after a tug. I think it thinks it has crashed, or collided with something, and cuts power to the motors if I tug to hard.
Comment by sergei lupashin on October 14, 2013 at 1:31am

Thanks for posting Chris! There's another video of just the flight demo:

If you'd like to hear more please get in touch via our website:


Comment by Gil Rosenthal on October 14, 2013 at 2:31am

Hi -

We started relating to this idea and the requirements just the other week...

In Israel, provisional regulations were set in 2011 pertaining to exactly such procedures, and 99% of the Drones

I ever saw on this site fall under the Mini-UAV Class (<15 Kg).

There is a sound logic comparing a cars' License Plate Number with a drones Tail Number (Aviation, right?),

and a Drivers License with a Pilot License.

However, the issue does not wrap up to be that simple, so lets take the automobile industry comparison

one step further:

- You wouldn't take your car in to any shop claiming to "know how to fix it" - you would seek an authorised,

   certified and licensed car mechanic, preferably one who has ALSO been authorized and trained to maintain

   and repair specific brands & models - Say, A TOYOTA car shop.

- Not every 4 wheel frame + motors + drivers seat is authorized, licensed and deemed "Road Worthy" and

  safe - to users and 3rd party.  You can't just put togeather a car from your favourite parts and hit the road!

  The car and all its sub-components and systems have to be certified, authorized and licensed too!!

Well - same hold true for aircraft in general and UAV's too.

I foresee a familiar future -

Certain current drone makers will push specific RTF configurations and get them licensed, so buying a "legal"

drone would be just like buying said TOYOTA from a car dealer.

And certain hobby shops will become licensed and certified "Drone Maintenance shops" for these licenced

RTF drones, and when you burn your ESC, you would have to have a certified shop replace it.

If you want to replace a Flight Controller, same deal + a submission of an official report to the feds.

The very act of Owning a car has to be registered, as will be the ownership of a UAV, mainly for insurance

and liability claims. You do not need a drivers license to OWN a car, but you need one too use it!

So you would probably end end taking Drone Pilots Ed, too !

And this is just the tip of the Iceberg :-)

Gil Rosenthal,



Comment by Gary Mortimer on October 14, 2013 at 10:11pm

COA airframes in the USA have tail numbers. What you see for the future of commercial platforms is already happening in the UK. You have to have a platform that has been approved and the operator has to have a permission to fly which he has gained by doing the appropriate training. This has been in place since 2007. 

What is exciting about this concept is yes its tethered so should not fly away. I would like to see a demonstration of what happens to it if you let go of the tether and regulators are very likely to be gentle with it or ignore it all together other than kite regs. It is after all only a posh kite. I am very very impressed with your work Sergei.


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