Drones are cool, but they can also be pretty scary up close. Don’t believe me? Just imagine four powerful propellers flying straight at your face at full speed. That’s what inspired Laurent Eschenauer, a lifelong tinkerer and professional electrical engineer, to invent Fleye.
“My children have been quite scared by my drones,” Eschenauer told TechnoBuffalo. “I was looking for problems to solve in the drone area. Safety looked like a key one.”
This safety-focused design hides all those dangerous components behind a glossy round shell. The result is a floating sphere that would look at home in most sci-fi movies and video games.
Eschenauer spent a year “hacking around” in his attic with aerospace engineer Dimitri Arendt before they finally came up with a working prototype. Since then they’ve taken Fleye to a few public events show it off and prove that it can actually fly. “This is not a CGI generated pipe dream,” Eschenauer said. “It’s a real product that works.”
By launching on Kickstarter, the team hopes to prove that there’s real interest in a safety focused drone. Of course, that futuristic design doesn’t hurt either.
Eschenauer notes that, whatever science fiction you grew up on, there was probably some sort of floating orb involved. For him, it’s the flying robot Obi-Wan Kenobi uses to train Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars film. He even notes that in the future Fleye could be used for similar training exercises, though probably without the laser beams and light sabers.
You can control Fleye with a remote, but it can also fly autonomously to a specific location or just hover in the air. It’s designed to automatically avoid running into other people and objects and, if it gets in the way, you can simply push it a few feet through the air without disrupting its flight.
Eschenauer readily admits that his flying robot can’t compete with faster drones when it comes to speed. It only travels at up to 10 miles per hour, though future versions might be quicker thanks to improved aerodynamics. Ideally, it could also become as small as a baseball without sacrificing any agility.
In the short term, the goal is to get Fleye into the hands of other engineers, developers and hobbyists who can come up with interesting new applications. Of course, it could also be great for taking photos with your friends or at your kid’s soccer game thanks to the built in camera.
You can order Fleye on Kickstarter for as little as €699 (roughly $738), though it won’t ship until September of next year.