(Authored by Trent Siggard)
We are singlehandedly experiencing the drone revolution as its happening. Thousands of people are hungry to get a chunk of the expected 4 billion dollar drone market by the end of 2016 and there have been many people who tried but failed to get into the drone market. We’re also in the age of crowdfunding; an era where if you have an idea you can make a pretty video and pre-sale your products. If you meet your goal, you’re funded. What you do with that money is completely up to you at that point.
The Onagofly secured 2.95 million dollars on crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo 2 months ago and have since started shipping their product. I bought in at a $150 price point for the 1st 200 backers so I was able to justify the risk of giving them my money.
The intersection of crowdfunding and drones fills a void where companies can over promise and under deliver. The most common type of drone put on Kickstarter is an action sports or selfie type of drone which is the white elephant in the UAS industry, primarily because “follow me” action sport type of drones have one key flaw: obstacle avoidance. (Yuneec has addressed this problem is the Typhoon H with Intel Realsense). Drones have the capability to know where the pilot is through cell phone GPS or GPS wristband, but the craft isn’t self aware of its environment enabling it to avoid obstacles. The Onagofly claims to have 360 degree obstacle avoidance, but its only active up to 6 inches away from the drone (the propeller takes up one and a half inches of that) so that’s an issue if you’re moving fast.
My experience with the Onagofly has been interesting to say the least. To start, I got an email saying my drone shipped (I bought within the 1st 2 hours of the campaign) so I responded to get a tracking number. I got an auto response saying they were out of the office for the next week and a half. I couldn’t believe it as tech products will need support and people will have questions when they’re basically beta testers.
The quick start guide as a double sided 4 panel folded instructional sheet. I made sure to RTFM before I did anything with the drone. It was clear about what everything on the drone was, the app interface, whats included, and technical specs. It wasn’t so clear about how you calibrated level on the phone, what the protocols were for if it loss link, etc.
Before I go on let me say I still have hope for this product. The hardware is acceptable as it can take a hit (see video below), the app can (and needs to be) updated in the future, and I believe that all the hardware is there. That means with some updates, this little guy has some potential left in him and I haven’t given up hope.
So, onto my 1st test flight. I had to borrow a co-workers phone because they only have support for Android at the moment. DJI also had this issue during the launch of Lightbridge and the Inspire 1, as it takes a while to get apps translated from their written language on android into apple’s code format. After that the app needs to be reviewed and approved by Apple staff and that can cause more delay for the the app to arrive on time in the app store. The app interface isn’t the most beautiful, but is functional.
I checked that I had GPS, pressed record, and clicked the unlock button which starts idling the motors. I then slid the altitude slider up and the drone gained altitude. I thought it was going to hover in place using GPS although there was no option for a compass or GPS calibration, but it did not. It drifted to the left and backwards, according to the tilt of my phone unknown to me. I had GPS signal before I took off, and upon further testing the GPS went from all green to none after pressing record or switching form photo to video mode. Strange.
After finding out that GPS worked until I pressed record or switched modes I re-srtarted it to see GPS hold. The GPS worked slightly and the Onagofly had a hard time holding altitude. I hit record and as I suspected lost the GPS signal and had to pilot it in tilt mode.
On one demo flight (starting at 3:55 in video) the flight was going as well as it could. The tilt mode worked, but the drone had problems holding altitude and responding to my inputs in the app. I tried to bring it in to land and I suspect what happened is the drone lost control link with my phone and held the last control input which was to fly back towards me. It kept going and ended up smashing into a building. Thankfully nothing broke, not even one prop.
All in all, the Onagofly has the potential to be a cool product. What it will take or how long it will take to get there is another question. I would rather crowd funding campaigns promise a deliver date later than they think, and deliver earlier. This would give a little more time for development and testing to make sure that the product works as promised.
Does it work as promised? No. The drone has GPS problems, it is not consumer-friendly (yet) and even though I wasn’t expecting it at all, they advertised perfectly steady shots which general consumers who backed the product are expecting. The GPS issues should be able to be fixed in a firmware update to make the drone usable. How would I use the Onagofly in real life? Once the flight control is taken care of I would use Onagofly only for still photos. It’s small enough to fit in the small pocket of a backpack and would be easy to keep with me at all times.
If you’re interested in the Onagofly I would suggest waiting on purchasing it. They haven’t finished shipping to their backers yet, and don’t expect to until the middle or end of march. I would wait and see if they release a timely fix for the GPS hold issues and lack of sensor calibrations. The Onagofly is retailing for $259 and can be ordered on their IndieGoGo campaign page.