Just when you thought the drone market couldn't get any more segmented. A startup called Eighty Nine Robotics is launching the first drone for the home that can be controlled remotely.
The new drone, Rook, was created by engineers at Northwestern University who noticed that all current drones on the market have a funny quirk: You have to be nearby to control them.
Frankly, I can't tell if this is the coolest little gadget ever or a product that belongs in the bargain bin at The Sharper Image. The moneyed denizens of the Internet certainly seem to dig it. The Rook has raised almost fifty large on Indiegogo, more than double its goal.
The drone connects to a home WiFi network and you can control it from anywhere on earth. The idea is that you can look in on your house, family, and pets while you're away. In lieu of manual controls for roll, pitch, and yaw, which would be tough to finagle remotely, the Rook uses a more intuitive interface that's supposed to make indoor flying safe and easy.
That probably deserves a big asterisk. I'm not sure what kind of cautionary literature this thing is going to ship with, but I'm betting it'll be printed in bold. Flying an electronic device around an empty house could go sideways real quick.
As for checking in on your family, imagine an eight-year-old waking up in the morning to see the omni-present eye of parent-bot 5000 hovering overhead. (Helicopter parent joke, anyone?)
And the pet thing is going to be a nonstarter for many. My dog, for one, becomes a psychotic monster whenever we get within 500 yards of a drone. He freaks out, lunges at the leash, and does all he can to bark the thing out of the sky.
Your results may vary.
That said, the engineers behind this thing have put together an impressive campaign. They've also priced their drone to sell. The Rook costs $129 for the current early-bird special. The basic package only allows you to stream video, but in the future Eighty Nine Robotics plans to release premium paid plans to give users access to features like security analytics, multi-user access, and triggered routines running on the cloud.
I'm also a big fan of the project's origins. Eighty Nine Robotics is a product of Northwestern University's startup incubator. I've written before about the growing role of academic incubators in moving technology from the research lab to the marketplace.
Coming out of Northwestern, Eighty Nine Robotics has been accepted to various accelerators, including Future Founders 2016, ChicagoInno's "25 Under 25," Alchemist Accelerator, and EMERGE Accelerator, which is backed by the Department of Homeland Security.
You can check out Eighty Nine Robotics at their website.