Unorthodox Sprite drone tolerates abuse and actually flies

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When you picture a consumer drone, something bulky with four or six props à la DJI probably pops to mind. But the folks behind a new model on Kickstarter think that such UAVs have two big problems -- namely, they're hard to carry and break easily if you mess up. They built The Sprite to overcome those limitations with a cylindrical, waterproof body and retractable blades. The design makes it easy to throw it into a pack, and when landing, the rotors halt in a half a second and fold into a retracted position. From there, the craft can safely alight on rocks, a bush or even a swamp without issues.

Though the design looks more toy-like than something from, say, 3D Robotics, Sprite is actually targeting pros. It has fully autonomous flight using waypoint navigation and "follow me" modes, along with a built-in 1080p camera (with optional 3rd party FPV) and a 2-axis stabilized gimbal. You'll also get a GoPro compatible 2-axis gimbal that can be swapped without tools, and control via a smartphone, tablet, or optionally, an R/C transmitter. The current flight time is around 12 minutes with the LiPo batteries, but the makers are striving to improve that before it ships.

At $799 sans transmitter, the Sprite is targeting the mainstream semi-pro market. You'll need to pay an extra $150 for the transmitter and around $300 for first person view (FPV) capability, putting the sticker at $1,249 for the same capability as a $1,099 DJI Phantom 3 Advanced. In other words, you'll need to have faith not only in the concept, but also the company's ability to ship it. That said, it's well over half way to its $200,000 goal with 21 days to go, so it's more likely than not to get backed. If all goes well, delivery is slated for December 2015.

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