Imagine a drone flying around your office taking autonomous decisions as it moves. This is the vision of the makers behind Fleye, who have built what they are billing as the world’s safest drone.
Made by two Belgian founders, the drone is the size of a soccer ball and has its propellers on the inside, encased by a shell. Most drones on the market have propellers exposed.
“If we are going to have autonomous flying robots around us, we need to make them safe,” Laurent Eschenauer, CEO of Fleye, told CNBC at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in London on Tuesday.
So far, the company has raised over half of its 175,000 euro ($190,000) funding goal on Kickstarter with 38 days left to go. The starting price for one of the drones is 599 euros.
The co-founders are now opening up the Linux operating system the drone runs on in so that developers can make apps for it and hopes to launch the device in April 2016.
Fleye can be controlled via an Android or iOS smartphone and comes with some pre-programmed functions such as when user clicks the selfie control, the drone will autonomously move to position itself to take a picture of the user.
Safety has become a key concern for regulators looking at drones after several high-profile incidents. Earlier this year, a drone crashed on the lawn of the White House. And at a music concert, popstar Enrique Iglesias reached out to grab a drone that was filming and sliced open his finger.
Eschenauer is betting on a world in which drones become ubiquitous and operate in areas from logistics to disaster recovery and even roaming around the office. A camera is attached on the top in order for the drones to recognize the world around it and take decisions, but also so people can take photos and videos.
But the young company finds itself in a highly competitive space against bigger manufacturers with deeper pockets. Chinese drone makerDJI this year raised $75 million, reportedly valuing it at $10 billion and offers drones for professional filmmakers as well as hobbyists.
Eschenauer admits Fleye won’t be able to take one the established players but said the company has got its own niche.
“We are carving our own niche which is proximity. If you want to capture film at a wedding or in an industrial plant, you won’t use the big drone with big propellers, especially if it becomes autonomous,” Eschenauer said.