Kickstarter project aims to turn your phone into a flying drone

Drones with smartphone components can easily cost $1,000 or more. Why not buy a flying shell that holds and uses your smartphone for the brains and camera images?


Why buy a flying drone that has cameras, wireless radios and a mobile processor when you can buy a drone that uses your smartphone as the brains? That's the idea behind PhoneDrone Ethos, a Kickstarter project that already surpassed its $100,000 funding goal with 31 days to go.

The concept is brilliant.

Instead of paying a thousand dollars for an intelligent, semi-autonomous drone that replicates many features your smartphone has, PhoneDrone Ethos is a less-expensive solution because you use much of the hardware you already have. All it does is take advantage of the smartphone you insert into the drone.

Since most drones are controlled by a smartphone, the project team had to figure out a solution to work around that. After all, if your phone is in the drone, you can't use the handset for flight controls.

There's an app that lets you set a flight pattern for the PhoneDrone Ethos as a "mission" and the company plans to release an API for others to add flight support for their own apps.

Of course, if you have another smartphone or tablet, you can always use it for full remote control of the drone.

Another interesting flight method is the "follow me" approach that the project team is working on. With it, another device will act as a GPS beacon and the drone can fly alongside or behind you as you move around.

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Different camera angles are available from the drone based on a small mirror that you set up before flight.

Putting your smartphone into something that flies -- and will inevitably crash based on my experience as a drone owner -- adds a bit of danger factor to your phone. The PhoneDrone Ethos has a shockproof slot to protect your handset. It also has a USB charging port and the battery should last for 15 to 20 minute flight times.


Initially, the PhoneDrone Ethos will work with the iPhone 4s and up as well as the Samsung Galaxy S2 and newer with more Android model support planned for the future. It also works with the Apple Watch if you want to send commands or have the drone take photos with the touch of a button.

Retail price of the PhoneDrone Ethos is expected to cost $300 and the product itself won't arrive until September 2016, but you can get in early for as little as $235.