3D Robotics

Update on Fotokite, the tethered cameracopter

3689604284?profile=originalRobohub has a good update on Fotokite, which uses a copter-on-a-string approach to Follow-me:

Although I am amazed with UAVs and their versatility, I must admit that having a flying camera zoom by – and zoom in on me – can be intimidating. Not because the drone has a camera, but because I don’t always knowwho is behind that camera. If the drone operator were immediately identifiable, however, I would have no problem. That is exactly the issue Fotokite tries to solve.

The idea was developed around the following premises:

  • The regulatory picture is murky and evolving – note that the FAA will likely miss the 2015 deadline for setting a UAV regulation, and that tethered aircraft are exempt from these rules
  • Accountability is important – most people are not happy to be the target of camera that is being flown by an unseen operator

The solution is a tethered, GoPro-fitted quadcopter with onboard algorithms that let it fly instantly and virtually under any conditions, without relying on piloting skills, GPS working or wifi failing.

Fotokite is designed to be launched and fully operational in one minute. To the user, flying the camera is as simple as holding a kite, and framing the picture is as easy as rotating your hand-held monitor. The tether provides visual accountability for bystanders and property owners.


Fotokite. Credit: Robert Ladig

The man behind the project, Sergei Lupashin, is a TED Fellow with 10+ years of autonomous systems experience and has assembled an impressive team that includes robotics heavy-weight Raffaello D’Andrea as an advisor. The project is supported by the Swiss National Centre of Competence for Research in Robotics (NCCR), which is also a supporter of the Flying Donkey Challenge.

Already there are several concepts that enable a drone to autonomously follow and film a moving object (AirDogand Hexo+). However, the Fotokite seems particularly well suited for use in media, to provide birds-eye view while allowing those around the device to immediately identify the camera operator. Though its price is still unknown, it seems like a  cool tool that will surely be added to many reporters’ inventory one day soon.

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  • Thanks for the shotout @Chris! @Jack I'd say the closer parallel to what we're up to is the work done around 110 years ago. But I'm getting ahead of myself!

  • MR60

    I had this idea two years ago. I even developed an electric winch to get the copter back if it tries to get away (or flyaway). I also thought it would be a solution to circumvent the prohibition of UAV flights in Europe. However I dropped the idea as not applicable in Europe, because even thetered aircarfts are forbidden ! (there is an as tough  regulation too for balloons).

  • @Jack

    Its less the lack of degree and money than the attempt to acquire money and the will to do it which is missing typically. This is a large part of creating a startup and many many many people don't do it, because its hard. There is a subtle difference between developing an idea in a lab or at home, proving its working and demonstrating it once on youtube - and afterwards to make it to a product, convince investors to give you the money and then successfully make it to the market and.. well, have success.

    Reading your post makes the last part sounding like everybody could do it, no, thats not like it. So you too could appreciate the work of the people just a little bit more that take the risks and (try to (!)) make good ideas available to a broader range of people, especially if the guys that developed the technology are not willing to do it.

  • Great idea for action sports...

  • genius, at least useful when debugging systems. that way the drone wont do anything stupid like flyaway.

    why not have the power source at the ground station too.

  • @Jack


    And still considering [me banging my head on] the original '000' resistor flip of death (Holger's team still denies)...

    FYI, good luck on color processing, been there with an $$$ FPGA solution, still had fundamental problems... and that was indoors... Airsolutions is also looking into tethered systems as well (again TBD release dates).

  • If the problem is identifying the cam operator, why not use something like this :)here-balloons.jpeg

  • Sucks to see so many attempts at the same problem 8 years after Holger Buss pioneered the concept, to know how it should be done with a $20 USB capture board, but be locked out by a degree & lack of money.  Tridge will surely have a colored hat demo in 5 months, but it's a long way from DJI plug & play. DJI just waits for 3D Robotics to prove the concept, then blows everyone away with a plug & play solution.

    Holger Buss
    Holger Buss is a member of Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.
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