Drones on a leash may sound like some novelty gimmick - like soap on a rope - but the concept behind Fotokites is actually quite grounded.
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Created by Zurich-based roboticist Sergei Lupshin, the tethered quadcopters aim to capture the same stunning photos and videos we now associate with drone footage. However, adding a leash modifies the very nature of the drone by eliminating two things: the need for experienced pilots and the creepy surveillance factor that people feel when they see an untethered drone. The leash acts as a reassuring anchor, directly connected to the operator for increased accountability.
Fotokites use standard, retractable dog leashes, while onboard software and sensors allow the drones to fly at the same angle in reference to their pilot. Wherever pilots move, they have reliable control over their photos and video.
Lupshin believes drones can be useful tools for journalists. During a recent TED talk, he validated his point with aerial footage of large street demonstrations in Russia where crowds were protesting the 2011 election process. However, the footage was shot by highly skilled untethered-drone photographers, one of whom wore an orange vest inscribed with a request that curious onlookers not interrupt the flight and wait until the drones had landed to ask questions. A tethered drone could eliminate this situation and free up the pilot to engage with his or her surroundings.