The eye3 camera drone that we posted about last week had a ring of too good to be true about it, and we voiced a number of concerns from people familiar with DIY drones expressed in this thread over on, uh, DIY Drones. As of last Thursday evening, Kickstarter has pulled their support for their project, effectively ending it, amidst evidence of photoshopped pictures and rumors of other projects by the same people that went way, way south.
At first glance, the eye3 drone seemed like an incredible deal. For US $2500, you could get yourself a beefy hexacopter capable of lifting over 6.8 kilograms (15 pounds) with an included autopilot that would take all of the hassle and stress out of flying the UAV, and enable people with zero experience to make immediate use of it. That sounded great, but a bunch of smart people over on DIY Drones expressed skepticism that it was possible to do everything that the Kickstarter project was claiming it could do, and further pointed out that the eye3 kit bore a striking resemblance to existing kits that you could order yourself for less money.
People on the Internet, being people on the Internet, did some digging and found out several things. First, the pictures of the kit on Kickstarter are just pictures of this kit (from cnchelicopter.com) with the attribution photoshopped out. Also, the founders of eye3 allegedly owe a bunch of people money (or a product) on another project. It appears that Kickstarter took a closer look at whether they thought it would be possible for the founders to make it happen and decided to shut it down. (Note that no one lost money because the project was still in the pledge phase.)
So what's the takeaway from all this? Well, the obvious thing to note is that if something seems too good to be true, odds are it probably is. In this case, the eye3 was only borderline unrealistic, which is what made it so seductive. That said, there's clearly a market for a professional-level camera drone with an autopilot that a novice could use, but it's entirely possible that promises like eye3 made for anything less than $5k or $10k are what made the project impossible to begin with.
If there's a positive note that we can end on, it would be this: The fact that a project like the eye3 drone is even remotely believable shows just how far the DIY drone community (in general) has come. It's vaguely incredible that with some research, you really can just go out and buy the parts and build one of these things, autopilot and all, since until relatively recently, such a thing would have been inconceivable for anyone without a military-sized budget.
One last note: If you're still a believer, its creators say that eye3 is still happening (just not on Kickstarter), and you can get updates here.
[ Kickstarter ]
Evan Ackerman is the senior writer for IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, Automaton. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and emerging technology, covering conferences and events on every single continent except Antarctica (although he remains optimistic). In addition to Spectrum, Evan's work has appeared in a variety of other online publications including Gizmodo and Slate, and you may have heard him on NPR's Science Friday or the BBC World Service if you were listening at just the right time. Evan has an undergraduate degree in Martian geology, which he almost never gets to use, and still wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. In his spare time, he enjoys scuba diving, rehabilitating injured raptors, and playing bagpipes excellently.