Could drones become social? Fatdoor, a social network for neighborhoods, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce Skyteboard, a quadcopter that can be controlled by local residents.
Imagine watching a local soccer game. Now imagine watching it via a slew of community-controlled Skyteboards, which can record from a multiple of angles and broadcast that footage into a smartphone app.
"The vision we have for Fatdoor is being able to create ways to understand what's happening around neighbors and to be able to control and conduct commerce around their neighborhood," Fatdoor cofounder and CEO Raj Abhyanker told Fast Company.
A patent attorney and serial entrepreneur, Abhyanker first launched Fatdoor in 2006—and was ousted as CEO the next year. In 2011, Google acquired the startup, renamed The Dealmap, largely for its patent portfolio, Abhyanker said. Now, with more than $1 million in funding from LF Funds—a venture fund by another one of his companies, LegalForce—Abhyanker is starting fresh and rebooting Fatdoor with a robotics twist.
"I'm now restarting the company around my original vision, a place for people to get to know their neighborhood," he said. "Now that it's 2014 rather than 2006, more people have mobile phones that have GPS, more people are used to social networking, and I came up with the concept of merging robotics with neighborhood social networking."
Currently, Fatdoor has a community of about 3 million users in the San Francisco Bay Area and two prototypes of the Skyteboard. The company consulted design firm Ideo to create its form. The bottom rotors of the quadcopter can fold under the top ones, making it roughly the size of a skateboard (hence its name). Controlled by the Fatdoor app, the $1,099 quadcopter features 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. However, the prototypes are still a long way from what Fatdoor envisions.
If the Kickstarter campaign reaches its $300,000 goal, the first batch of Skyteboards will be sold to consumers for recreational use—not commercial. In addition, the prototypes aren't designed to carry any loads (though it can currently yield a camera), so it will be a while—if ever—before Skyteboard is used to deliver pizza or tacos. Not to mention the fact that any commercial use will depend on restrictions issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.
That's not to say Abhyanker isn't interested in autonomous food delivery. He's currently testing a food-delivery robot in Palo Alto called Bot Appétit.
Still, Abhyanker has ambitious plans for Fatdoor. The company is looking to raise another $1 million in the next year, but there's also a plan B. Its sole source of funding thus far, LF Funds, was created to invest in startups with patent potential, so even if Fatdoor fails, they at least have an intellectual property portfolio that can be sold off. So far, Fatdoor has filed more than 60 patents.