Irresponsable and Immoral




Lately I have been following the kikstarter project “The pocket Drone” which is having a huge impact.
First of all I am a bit pissed off because in the kikstarter project there is just this mention to Ardupilot!
• APM compatible flight controller 6-axis accelerometers, 3 axis gyroscopes, barometric sensor (altitude)

There is not any comment or anything relating DIYD or 3DR!

Second in this interview they present the product without even mentioning Arducopter, but when they are asked on what OS do they use they say “currently is based in the arducopter OS, is using an opencourse plataform that we’ve added layers on top” (I am sure you did…) at minute 8:30 if you want to here it.

I think that is totally immoral that a guys that all what did was print a tricoper and arrange with Chinese manufacturer for cheap electronics, pretend to be what they pretend to be!

But the truly important problem is not that. On both sites they are giving to understand that this is product that does not need any special attention or precaution, even less any experience! In a lot of moments things like “it always seemed like either mom or dad (the photographer) was missing from family pictures. We’re proud to announce the launch of The Pocket Drone to address these challenges. Many of our supporters are calling it the "GoPro of drones." “ are said. What! How can you compare a product like Arducopter to a GoPro camera? That just needs you to press a button to record! When in the documentation is said hundreds of times that this is something to take seriously (and I think is not said enough).
So I think this is actually a fraud, they are pretending to sell a thing that they are not selling, but even more important to my point of view is that for the moment there is 1200 people that has not any experience with drones that bought one (I say 1200 because there is 1200 totally RTF kits sold at the moment on Kikstarter).
So in a few months at least 1200 people will go out with a drone thinking that is as easy to control as a gopro. And they all, all without any exception will crash and god knows what else!
I find it really worrying, and I think that since we are the community that is actually behind that project (even though they pretend we’re not) we should take some actions about it. Not allowing that people is tricked, and not allowing not necessary accidents to happen.

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  • I'm doing some testing with a prototype.  I do not work for them, they just offered me one to play with.  And I think as anyone here would do when someone offers you a drone for free-- I said 'yes'.  :)

    Here's my little video from today:

  • WoW, it's good to see that I wasn't the only person that noticed all the pipe dreams that they are pitching on kickstarter. I've been into RC over 30 yrs. I built my first multi rotor around Oct. it was a SimpleCopter T copter. I've very very very mechanical, I invented and sold electric scooters 10 yrs ago that I had to have made in China as the US was over 4k for what we were wanting to make/market. Anyhow I used the KK2 board and followed Matt's youtube vids to build, all the while I had bought A) USB flight simulator B) Small toy quad so that I could get to flying without killing my wallet or injuring something or someone. I found a 100 yard x 100 yard grassy field to fly in. Spent probably about a month getting pretty good at flying the smaller quad before I finished up the tcopter ( reason I thought it good to know how to fly without gps) is nothing is a guarantee and if something goes wrong then I really want to be able to jump in and try to save the flight. So I built the T copter, learned to fly it, didn't like it so much as it wasn't so stable, at that time Matt had come out with a Vtail version, saw vid of it flying in strong winds and thought yes that is for me, the entire reason for my multi rotor interest is that I'm into photography, more important I want to build an eco resort in Baja Mexico. I am wanting to do a video of the property to show people, and thought putting a go pro would be handy to get that nice shot coming in from a Canyon or arroyo and having that amazing opening scene of the Sea of Cortez where I'm building. So I build my 2nd copter the Vtail, now the Baja 1000 is on ( end of Nov) so I had gone in 2011 and shot some picts with my DSLR and I had been planning on going down for a week. Well that all changed when I got to the races.. I took some amazing picts of the races ( no video as you have to have a 2 axis gimbal PERIOD, to get any useable video) once I saw how amazing those picts were I kept on my trip, so 3 weeks and I got some pretty neat shots of lots of things it totally changed my way of traveling ( the vtail flew great in 35mph winds, I did have to turn auto level off a few times to fly back, in that I was able to capture some amazing things ( I have many more shots, just need more time, just posted some quick shots for kicks). So this has inspired me to get into the business, I've helped pioneer many industries from Inline in the 80's, to wakeboard, snowboard, Razor scooters, electric scooters, longboard skateboards even some stuff in the pet industry. Heck I invented this circus clown type tiny bike that adults could ride, sold over 100,000 units on QVC, was called the Vapor Bully. I for sure have crashed, I've even lost my baja vtail ( had come back to my office and thought I should just clean it out from the baja sand and dust and what not, took it up at 7pm between our two huge buildings, not thinking about it being dark as we have lights all around, but when I went over the north building I then came back to the south and as I was looking up coming in, slight cross wind, I was blinded by the huge light on our stairwell tower and couldn't see for about 15sec, behind that building is power lines and then just behind that a huge concrete plant, unit gone) did I learn from that yes... A) put a sticker on the bottom of your multi that says REWARD call this number B) had I just powered down instead of up to avoid lines, prob would have landed on my roof ( it's 20' high) easy to climb and get C) note to self, develope a tiny gps locating dealio that's super cheap  anyhow FF now I have since built a XuGong foldable quad with Naza M V2  ( very challenging, programing the DX9 to it is a NIGHTMARE) spektrum manual is USLESS, how they are allowed to sell a trans for $500 with that manual is beyond me. anyhow with some help I was able to get her flying, it's a great unit 10" props. they claimed it could shoot vids with the go pro mount they included that has servo tilt ( wrong it needs a gimbal 2 axis) so they are working on that, so these guy's at AirDroid are pitching a pipe dream in my opinion from the hours and hours I've invested in building and flying in the past 5 months. The main issue I have is that a 3 blade or a 4 blade is hitting the ground the min something goes wrong with either the board, the esc, motor, or a prop. End of that story.  So I'm off next week to China to meet with some folks about a hex I'm working on designing. Thinking of the APM 2.6 as the pricing with DJI is way out there and thinking apm might be a better fit in the long run... heck  I'm still trying to figure out how the heck the naza can't activate my return to home, I've been told I need more then 6 channels, so I got in a 9 channel reciever and will tackle that soon, not sure how that is since the naza has one open port, so can't imagine if I was using that 2nd port for something else... heck the fact the naza can't support brushless gimbal is horrid to me... ;)  

    Moral of my story, is that if these guy's are smart they will back track and suggest that everyone that isn't already a multi pilot, get a $25 simulator and learn, then 2nd buy like the hubspan $40 quad to learn seeing as they have lots of time to kill before this group of over 1000 get out in public with this thing and screw up the market for the rest of us !!!

  • Of course it would be nice. But they are not gonna do it, as they didn't answer any of the questions that where asked.
    The community should not only create the technology, but also try to make sure it is used as it should.

  • No.  We are not here to help Kickstarter detect potential breaches of their guidelines, or cause them to scrutinise future drone based campaigns with greater veracity, though it would be nice to see AirDroids do the following of their own volition:

    1a. Make it quite clear to their backers what change was made to the promo video, explaining why this was an important distinction to make, while outlining the difference between the video footage used to market it and that which will be produced by the product itself (make the differences and limitations between gimbalised and ungimbalised stabilisation known to backers in layman's terms).  Perhaps an apology might not go astay.


    1b. Deliver the Pocket Drone with a suitably resolved 2-axis brishless gimbal capable of delivering video performance consistent with the videos they used to promote it.  It would seem that they easily have the economy of scale to deliver.


    2.Circulate an update arming backers with a more realistic understanding of what they are purchasing, directing them to relevant resources which will allow them to do two things: (a) be afforded a fighting chance to ascertain whether the Pocket Drone is in fact easy to fly and simple to maintain as they may have been lead to believe, and (b) start their learning journey.  This would be much fairer on backers, at least giving them 1 week to evaluate the proposition (something they should have been able to do before making their pledge).


    3. Deliver on this promise (14th Jan) - "We hear you loud and clear. We promise to post lots of Pocket Drone footage before anyone's credit card is charged so everyone can make an independent evaluation of video quality."  This means letting backers see a variety of aerial videos shot not only outdoors, but actually performing some of the tasks claimed and shown as examples during the campaign such as filming scenery, surfing and kids sports, as well as showing functions such as follow me and autonomous flight. (Note - AirDroids are 7 days from logging on to check their bank balance, yet all they have put out there so far is a weak 3-minute video of the craft hovering indoors).

  • Should some moderator or someone send a letter to kickstarter, to explain the situation?

  • APM and arducopter is not made by "we do it for you drones."  Its made and supported by DIY drones and the DIY drones community!  If it was super simple and fool proof for a novice to set up, there wouldn't be a massive wiki, and thousands of posts on how to do it.  Hey even NAZA that is supposed to be easy to setup and work flawlessly is almost impossible for a new person to set up and keep operating without ever having an issue!

  • I became interested in drones after backing the R10 Quadcopter on kickstarter. It arrived six months late, was well undercooked, incredibly unreliable, poorly designed and flat out dangerous. The worst thing is that UAIR stopped communicating, leading many backers to feel it was a scam.

    In the interim I started reading forums and ordered a tricopter from HobbyKing. That set me on the path of becoming a DIYer. In the last 12 months I've developed an appreciation for how complex and often  unreliable these things are. I am also a big believer in their potential to positively impact our economies. As a result, I will no longer fly anywhere near unsuspecting people and am acutely aware of the potential liability I am open to. It really frustrates me that there's no really easy way for beginners to not accidentally do something stupid - common sense becomes a lot more common with experience.

    The good news is that advances in hardware and software are bringing us closer to taking risk away from end users however, we're not there yet - not by a long shot. I'd prefer to see Pocket Drone market itself to the appropriate customer - someone who is tech savvy and willing (and able) to dig in a bit (okay, a lot) and learn to be a safe and responsible UAV pilot. 

    The potential risks are mitigated by the small size and low weight of the Pocket Drone. Still, the corporate media is optimised around attracting eyeballs and drone stories seem to do that quite well - I still see the Sydney drone book delivery PR stunt being quoted by "serious" journalists. I think DJI is far more culpable in this regard - an in store promo video suggests it's safe enough for your mate's hot girlfriend to fly.

    Overall I think Pocket Drone is doing the right thing by trying to make it easier for more people to get into our hobby. It's just the marketing and positioning that needs a little tweaking.

    R10 Quadrotor- powerful, inexpensive, and customizable.
    R10 is a quadrotor/micro air vehicle, radically designed from the ground up to be extremely easy to build, modify, and fly.
  • It seems that there was a video posted somewhere, i wasn't able to find it.

    Anyway, i think that if there was any doubt on the legitimacy of the project it should be clear by now.

    And... The AirDroids team is ignoring all what is inconvenient to them, and in 8 days they will have the campain funded.

  • Timothy Reuter - I thought it might be a bit clearer to respond to your comments directly:

    "We are not trying to hide the fact that our system is using the APM, but rather to package it in a way that makes it accessible to a broader audience than traditionally engages with this technology"

    The absence of what some would consider to be appropriate attribution on it's own probably isn't the issue. However, the masterful way in which you seem to be able to pass yourself(selves) off as innovators has a compounding effect. Take the way in which you infer you are responsible for (or are actively participating in) the development of things like adding obstacle avoidance, or improvements to DroidPlanner.  This type of conduct seems to disregard the contributions of people like Randy, Tridge and Arthur in a most disrespectful manner.

    "Many of you on this forum are experienced makers for whom assembling a custom frame and adding electronics is simple to do. I think it is easy to forget that for most people this is quite difficult, even from a kit, and a large set of consumers would like to be able to focus on using the technology rather than digging through forums to determine how to get it to operate."

    I feel a bit silly making this point, as it just seems so self evident. Many of us, for whom assembling custom frames and adding electronics is simple to do, would love to be able to just focus on using the technology instead of digging through forums to determine how to get our craft operating.  The reason we aren't always able to focus on using the technology, and are instead forced to resort to digging through forums, is because drones (not just my drones, your drones, 3DRs drones or anyone else's drones...) are just not that easy to fly or easy to maintain. Trawling forums, familiarising ourselves with the hardware and software, learning calibration procedures, and perfecting tips, tricks and techniques relating to everything from minimising vibration reduction to optimising weight distribution is simply what is required to keep a capable, well balanced, well tuned, well calibrated, well maintained drone in the air with the technology we have available to us today. In short - We don't just DIYD because we want to, we DIYD because we have to!

    I would love to know how you expect a member of the broader community, who you yourself acknowledge is not prepared to dig through forums in order to determine how to get their craft to operate, and whom would not have otherwise engaged with this type of technology, is going to be able to perform even the simplest of ongoing maintenance procedures, such as:

    1. Binding/Rebinding

    2. Resyncing ESCs

    3. Calibrate transmitter

    4. Tailor RTF and other failsafes

    5. Calibrate Magnetometer

    6. Calibrate Accelerometer

    None of the above procedures have anything to do with the functions aimed at "advanced users only" or even general mechanical maintenance. They are simply commonplace procedures that anyone using a Pocket Drone must become proficient in performing should they wish to get any more than a few minutes of joy out of their craft.

    Then of course there are the inevitable crashes.  We all crash, and we crash lots.  Beginners crash particularly often.  Crashing damages propellers, burns out ESCs, bends motor shafts, fills brushless motors with crap, fatigues wires, loosens connections, and generally results in the need for service and/or repair in some shape or form.

    Mechanical repairs and maintenance are big challenges to be faced by Pocket Drone backers, just like the rest of us. The fact that most of us here build, or at least modify, our own craft isn't why our craft isn't the reason why they need constant care and affection, but it is the reason why we can maintain and repair them.

    So, when the inevitable happens, what then for your backers who simply want to be able to focus on the technology?  You have already highlighted the fact that this "large set of consumers" are unprepared to dig through forums in order to determine solutions, so what are they to do?  How easy to fly and simple to maintain will their Pocket Drone be when it is grounded pending reconfiguration or maintenance?  How to you foresee them getting back into the air each and every time they have an issue?  What are your backers, who (as you yourself define them) wouldn't otherwise engage with this technology, to do when they need to: diagnose and replace bents rotor shafts, balance unique non-rigid propeller that aren't compatible with conventional balancing solutions, repair a bent/cracked/destroyed frame, swap out a blown ESC, or whatever else occurs?

    "We're also working to make sure we include information in our packaging that will educate our consumers about safety best practices before they launch into the air."

    When you say "safety best practices" do you mean specifically from your point of view, rather than the customers? I ask this because the word safe/safety/injury or damage only appears on your campaign page (or on your website for that matter) is as a selling point relating to your folding props and or within a paragraph designed solely (to the extent possible) to indemnify Airdroids, it's employees and directors from the risk of future legal claims.

    Nor is there so much as a hint of the potential risks associated with operating the drone, or the level of skill, care and respect which must be exercised. The words 'danger', 'risk', 'caution' or 'experience' do not appear anywhere.  Yet you see value in stating that the Pocket Drone can fly over 5,000ft/1.5km (or up to 11,000ft/3.3km) from the Pilot, while making no reference to the fact that in most jurisdictions and under most common flying conditions they will be lucky to experience 25% of the smaller number.  It seems clear that you are bent on serving up every last piece of information that might help you gain a backer, while avoiding like the plague any single piece of information that might even remotely cause them to that question whether the Pocket Drone is as well resolved, safe to use, easy to operate and simple to maintain as your average domestic appliance.

    As for using the box to educate your backers. How big is the packaging going to be?  No doubt you will be forced to print on both sides of if you are to have any hope of equipping your backers with so much as a skerrick of the knowledge required to pilot a Pocket Drone.

    "Also, we think the Drone User Group Network plays a complementary role to DIY Drones in being an in person community alongside DIY Drones much larger and longer established virtual community. When we say the Drone User Group Network is the largest community dedicated to teaching people how to build and operate their own flying robots, we are simply referring to the fact that we are the largest community to our knowledge that puts on regular events where individuals can come and learn in person many of the things that are discussed here online. Perhaps we need to be clearer about the in person virtual distinction."

    Diydrones is a virtual community of >49,000 members with a monthly site traffic of over 38,000,000 page views.  It hosts an enormous volume of daily traffic through its site and functions as an irreplaceable resource to 10s of thousands of drone users.  Diydrones runs competitions, and members organise and attend fly days all over the world (even I have been to one).

    The Drone User Group Network has >3000 members (and growing fast) and is also virtual community. It's emphasis is on bringing people together in the physical sense does however give it a point of difference.  But, even after the heavy promotion of the Pocket Drone campaign was in full swing, the site (which features prominently in the Pocket Drone campaign and related press) was seeing only ~7,500 monthly page views (but, again, it is climbing fast during the KS campaign).  This represents less than 1/5000th the volume of diydrones, or about the amount you would expect from a site benefiting from no specific inbound traffic and no content to collect organic traffic).

    It is this contrast that makes claims that dugn is the "largest community in the world dedicated to teaching people to build and operate their own flying robots" seem pretty dubious.

    "Our hope with AirDroids is to be able to take the amazing things people are doing in the broader drone community and make them available to new people. We felt that a business was the most sustainable way to accomplish that goal."

    I do not know how your claim that the Pocket Drone is "Easy to fly and simple to maintain" could possibly be substantiated, and your claim that "a broader audience than traditionally engages with this technology" is going to find your APM equipped tricopter easy to fly and simple to maintain is just not based in any reality I am aware of.

    Lastly, could you help me interpret your recent weather reports. Excerpts below for your reference:

    AirDroids (KS Comments) feb7 - "the crazy weather in Indianapolis where we have been doing a lot of our testing has limited our flying. We will post at least one video by Tuesday, barring any significant weather events, and then we'll significantly ramp up our videos after that."

    TJ Johnson (YT Comments) feb10 - " I will work on getting some videos in the wind, but it is hard to get the wind to blow when I want it to... lol. Maybe Ill see if I can find a big industrial shop blower and fly in front of that."

    AirDroids (KS Comments) feb27 - "We know we're overdue on the videos and will have more soon. We tried taking some yesterday, but the 30 mph winds were not cooperating. The drone actually handled the conditions pretty well but the video was not pretty. We'll try again tomorrow if the weather cooperates and will definitely have more this week"

    I am interested in knowing how the weather in Indianapolis can be so bad as to have prevented you from publishing any outdoor flights for the entire month of February? Or January for that matter?  Is there some type of atmospheric phenomenon causing conditions to simultaneously be both too windy to fly and so calm as to have your team talking about bringing in an industrial shop blower to move your own air?

  • Hunter - If you don't think adhering to the guidelines laid out by Kickstarter is all that important, then I can respect that. As you say, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I do expect though, that there would be >1400 people out there who might not share your view on this.

    With regards to your comments on laws and regulation. We really don't want to see a situation (or, more importantly, a culture) develop that provides law makers with any reason to think their intervention is required (or even justified). Au Contraire, as you might say.

    No new law would be needed anyway, as there are plenty of consumer protections already in place to guard against the misrepresentation of a product or service such as this.  Under Australian Consumer Law (I assume the US would have simular laws in place) there are requirements placed on sellers as well as a range of irrevocable rights granted to the consumer/customer. These are the type of laws we already have to ensure that the consumers don't get mislead or sold something that doesn't do what it is supposed to. 

    Here are just a few (distilled for obvious reasons):

    * Seller must demonstrate/exercise Due Skill

    * Seller must demonstrate/exercise Due Care

    * Product or Service must be Fit For Purpose - It must fulfil any specific purpose or task specified by the seller (NOTE - A specified purpose does not have to be in writing and can be implied. Seller is off the hook if they can demonstrate that it is unreasonable to rely on supplier for guarantee of fitness).

    * It is illegal to be false and/or misleading about the need for service, the quality or price of a product or service.

    * A Non-Major Failure entitles a customer to repair or replacement.

    * A Major Failure entitles a customer of a choice of repair or replacement (and within a reasonable timeframe), otherwise customer is entitles to have the product repaired elsewhere and the original supplier is liable for that cost.

    * Termination of sale entitles customer to a full refund and compensation for reasonably foreseeable loss.

    * A sales contract or agreement cannot remove a guarantee or a consumer's rights in the fine print

    * Terms of service cannot override consumer guarantees

    * A consumer cannot be forced to pay for something that should be free.

    These laws apply to everything from TVs, to blenders, lawn mowers, cars, telecoms, you name it, and I can't imagine why it would not apply to a Drone. However, AirDroids are not selling the Pocket Drone.  Instead, they are offering it as a reward for the money people pledge to help them build a business. Backers aren't making a purchase, they are evaluating the creator's pitch, as well as the attractiveness of the 'tangible reward' and/or 'special experience' AirDroids are offering in return for their support.   So, conventional consumer protections probably don't apply when it comes to Pocket Drone backers.  Kickstarter is a donation based crowd function platform, not a marketplace, and has it's foundation in a bond of trust between a project's creator(s) and the people whom wish to donate their money to contribute to that project's success.

    If indeed you are such a vehement capitalist, then I should think that your sensibilities would be quite offended by what AirDroids have done.  After all, they didn't exactly do all the hard work required to meet their competitors on a level playing field out on the open market, did they? Instead, AirDroids chose to construct a campaign for donations which is aimed at the wide-eyed and uninitiated masses.

    In response to your belief that the responsibility falls on consumers to do their research, I agree. But only if this was a conventional seller/buyer arrangement which, as I have highlighted above, probably isn't the case when it comes to a Kickstarter campaign.  Plus, as Timothy Reuter defines in this very thread, the Pocket Drone is aimed at a boarder audience that would not traditionally engage with this technology and whom aren't prepared to dig through forums.  Nor do backers have any reason to scrutinise the campaign. Even if they did, they lack the requisite knowledge to understand what they are looking for or how this relates to the performance the product.

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