Remote Control, First Person Paper Airplane

In kickstarter this week, more evidence that when it comes to small UAVs, techies have almost no common sense. Powerup FPV.

OK, making a chassis that is designed slip into a paper airplane is clever enough. (Of course, it does kind of defeat the “nothing but a piece of paper” challenge intrinsic to making paper aircraft.) Not that the technology is especially innovative.

At least it’s not a quadcopter. I hate quadcopters.

I don’t really understand how the craft steers, and I expect it handles a lot like a paper airplane—sluggish and imprecise.

Adding a web cam is, of course, not only not original, it is pretty much the whole point of droning these days. Yay!  With this “toy” I can whip up a small spy drone and send it on its way in a few minutes. Broadcasting over the Internet, of course.

What could possibly go wrong?

The part that most defies good sense to me is the Google Cardboard interface. I haven’t tried it in person, but the illustrative first person video is really hard to watch, and, I’m pretty sure, impossible to steer with. Stereo 3D is irrelevant here, if the scene is narrow and uncontrollable   So the “drive it yourself” feature has to be insane. Note “insanely cool” but “insanely stupid” and/or “Insanely dangerous”.

How in the world could you hope to actually fly that thing with such restricted and out of control visual information? Even assuming the controls are responsive, which I suspect they aren’t), you have no awareness of what is around you or where you are. I’d estimate mean time to crash to be seconds.

This might work with a pilot (using a screen) and an passenger/observer wearing Cardboard. I don’t know if that is possible in the current implementation or not

So what is this good for? It’s certainly not practical for anything other than an expensive toy. When the novelty wears off, you’ll almost certainly not use the first person feature very much.

Something like this may well catch on as a disposable spy craft. Pull out the small core, fold up a piece of paper, and send your spy drone over the fence to snoop on the neighbor sunbathing. Or in through the window to get a quick look inside the house before burglarizing it. For that matter, sneak the parts into an airport, quickly build the drone, and then launch it into the path of commercial aircraft.

And so on.

Do I sound grumpy? If so, it’s because I’m getting tired of the bone headed enthusiasm of people who are cashing in to make a quick buck selling these rather dangerous and anti-social devices. There is almost no innovation here, just permutations of the same technology, and the same (fatuous) sales pitches. Teh same anti-social assumption that playing with toys trumps all other concerns.

Grumble, grumble.

More and more I’m thinking about anti-drone defenses.


Robot Wednesday


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