Marque Cornblatt, CEO of San Francisco-based Game of Drones, sees a lot of “pain points” in today’s drones. (In startup speak, “pain points” means “problems”.) They’re expensive, they’re hard to learn to fly, and they’re fragile, he says.
So last year, Game of Drones got a hard-to-destroy drone body (with no motor or electronics on board) to market via a successful Kickstarter campaign. This drone kit was targeted at hobbyists who know enough about drones to build them, and wanted to engage in drone combat—or at least not have to repair their drones after crashes. The drone body sells for $140. The company then added complete build-a-drone kits for $400 to $700 to its offerings.
Next year, Game of Drones will move beyond kits for do-it-yourselfers and bring out a ready-to-fly racing drone, Cornblatt said last week, speaking to a crowd of investors, journalists, and other entrepreneurs attending the Highway 1 accelerator’s demo day. The Flow State Tantrum, or FST, will be designed for people who want to use a drone right out of the box.
The under-$500 gadget will have a built-in camera that sends video to a handheld controller or to virtual reality glasses; the viewpoint will make the user feel like he’s in the drone’s cockpit, Cornblatt says. The controller will have all the smarts needed to set up and operate the drone—no separate computer necessary. And the system will require the user to complete a series of “flight school” lessons before turning over complete control, so “you don’t immediately crash your drone onto the White House lawn,” he says. A flight simulator built into the controller will allow drone enthusiasts to practice their flying skills without even putting the drone into the air.
Cornblatt had mockups of the FST on hand at Highway 1’s demo day, but refused to let them be photographed; they are smaller than Game of Drones current models, measuring 280 mm (about 11 inches) across. The company expects the FST to be officially introduced this fall.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.