May 6, 2015 | By Simon

When the iPhone was first announced on stage by an extremely excited Steve Jobs on January 9th, 2007, many people were perplexed as to what to think of it; was it a phone with a computer feature or a computer with a phone feature?

Now, nearly a decade later, we’re still finding entirely different uses for the smartphones in our pockets ranging from a camera to a personal assistant and a media player to a gaming device.  Now, thanks to a new Kickstarter project, turning your smartphone into a drone might just be the next possible use for the computer in your pocket.  

The PhoneDrone, which was created by Idaho-based drone startup xCraft, aims to allow your smartphone to become an autonomous aerial camera; integrated flight planner, tethered controller and more.  While we’ve previously seen drones that can be controlled from your smartphone via an app, the PhoneDrone actually attaches your phone itself to a drone.  When used with the free accompanying app, the “smartphone drone” can be told everything as to where to go, how high to fly, stream video, follow “like a bodyguard while you walk” and even return to you if the battery is low.  

Of course, few things go as well together as 3D printing and drones and PhoneDrone creators JD Claridge and Charles Manning have responded to this by not only selling a pre-manufactured, ready-to-assemble kit, but also a significantly cheaper DIY kit that features all of the necessary 3D printing files for users to create their own 3D printed PhoneDrones.  In total, the DIY Kit includes the electronics (motherboard and ESCs), four motors, hardware, and of course the 3D model files.  Claridge and Manning have designed the parts to fit on a small to average-sized desktop 3D printer bed; the largest part is 5.8 x 5.8 inches.

As for who will find use for the PhoneDrone - whether purchased pre-made or DIY -  Claridge and Manning have found “literally hundreds of uses” for the unique form of aircraft.  Among others, these include a personal aerial camera for extreme sports and running, a virtual tour device for real estate agents, a replacement for selfie-sticks, a home-monitoring robot and a real-time event broadcast streamer.   

With over a month left to go in their campaign, Claridge and Manning have already raised nearly a third of their campaign goal of $250,000 to finalize production of the PhoneDrone. 

“We have a proven design and we want to do a large-scale production run - working with Kickstarter to gauge how many units will be produced,” says the team on their Kickstarter page.   

“We feel confident that we will hit our minimum - we simply wonder how many we will punch out in this first production run.”

Currently, the DIY kits for those who are comfortable creating their own PhoneDrone with a 3D printer start at $99 while pre-made PhoneDrone units start at $199 (limited quantity) before increasing to $249.  It works with a wide variety of existing smartphone models including iPhone and Android.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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