A widespread fear of drones is increasing as more and more of the autonomous flying vehicles are launched by companies, researchers, artists, and DIYers above U.S. skies. If you see a drone flying overhead, you have no idea who is piloting it and who might be watching you.
One researcher, roboticist Sergei Lupashin, has partially solved that concern by putting a drone on a leash. “As soon as you have the tether, people think of it as a pet,” he says (as opposed to the association with ominous spying machines presumably). “Think of this as a kite. It’s no longer a UAV, a UAS, or a drone. It’s a kite that happens to have a fancy wings, and some control algorithms. The cool thing about kites is you know exactly who is flying the thing.”
The Fotokite, which Lupashin demonstrated at the Drone and Aerial Robotics Conference held at New York University this month, is a tethered quadcopter that is essentially a flying steadicam. It can follow around the operator and fly at different heights, but calculates its path to maintain a steady place in the air relative to the person flying it. The dog leash also helps to stabilize the machine.
The tech could be a boon to anyone who wants to get relatively inexpensive aerial imagery or video of a scene, says Lupashin. In the past, people have tried everything from literally strapping cameras to kites to mounting big cranes overhead. He showed photos he has taken at Burning Man with his device, but there there are innumerable other uses as people increasingly look to drone imagery to document events, crowds, and landscapes.
You can see it in action at its trip to Burning Man earlier this year in the video below.