Robert Ladig/Fotokite

Product News

Cameras mounted on drones have been used for all sorts of interesting things lately — getting a fuller picture of the scope of Ukrainian protests, capturing skiers and snowboarders in action at the Olympics in Sochishowing aerial views of real estate or zooming way out on the Burning Man festival.

But unmanned vehicles flying overhead and recording what is below still feels somewhat invasive. That’s due in part to their origins spying and firing missiles and such. It’s also because people who see drones flying above them have little way of knowing what they’re doing or where they came from, unless they see someone holding a controller nearby.

So what happens when you add a dog leash to the setup?

“It becomes like a flying pet,” said Fotokite founder Sergei Lupashin. “And as soon as you have the tether, people think of it as a pet.”

Lupashin builds prototypes of the aptly named Fotokite out of 3-D printed parts, a standard GoPro camera, and a retractable dog leash. The BBC is among the early testers, and Lupashin is part of the TED Fellows program for emerging creative thinkers.

In an interview at TED, Lupashin said there are other benefits to leashed quadrocopters besides the way people perceive them. They’re much simpler to operate, and the tether acts as kind of an extendable tripod.

The intelligence in the Fotokite remembers the trajectory and direction at which it’s launched into the air. So while Lupashin and I were talking while walking through the TED conference in Vancouver, the Fotokite hovered at about chin level, focused back toward us, even as we went down an escalator.

What are the potential uses for this? “A journalist documenting a demonstration, a photographer shooting a wedding party, firefighters on search and rescue, architects, archaeologists, scientists and many others,” Lupashin said.

“Purpose-built robotics solutions for firefighters have had very limited success, but if a 5-year-old is able to use a Fotokite, then perhaps it’ll actually be useful at the site of an accident or a breaking news event,” he added.

Plus, Lupashin said that proposed FAA guidelines for unmanned aerial systems explicitly won’t apply to tethered aircraft like kites.

This is far from being a consumer product — in fact, Lupashin said he does not yet know how Fotokites will be distributed or sold to professionals or consumers. Currently, Fotokite is being built by a team in Zurich with a robotics grant from the Swiss National Foundation. But Lupashin is trying to raise a seed round on AngelList.

Here’s a video, taken mostly by Lupashin’s Fotokite extended up above our hallway-and-escalator interview at TED. It was edited by Vjeran Pavic of Re/code.


This is absolutely positively ridiculous. Immediately making the product moot is the overly simple concept of not following the rules, if you are worried about spying why would a "spy" even use the leash? Moving past that no longer valid reason to have this in market you move onto safety, you simply cannot have this tethered, this concept was destroyed the first time it was brought up by some 10 year old for some science thing. It's ridiculous to think this has validity. 

Pretty much this is just somebody trying to jump on the bandwagon without any idea of how things work. You can have it tethered, The gyro can't control its own platform if it has no ability to move up and down, period. Though I'm sure you could program it to be more stable in this situation but it still dangerous, ask a wreckage diver. One of the scariest things is getting the cable caught on an object and being stuck, what if the gyro loses control then you have a cable falling with it. ridiculous.


Do you sit at your window worried about a car that parked out front of your house? Sure maybe sometime, but not all the time right? Why because you know that 99% time that person has a legit reason for being there and had absolutely nothing to do with you. So why the attack on multirotors? Stigma, like you said "origins spying and firing missiles and such." but so are airplanes, and cars, and boats, and computers, and everything else. You use your cell phone still don't you? Guess what, name it and the tech in your phone is used to spy and kill people, period. 

Move on, get over it. Just because it's slightly creepy and you don't know anything about it doesn't mean it needs to be controlled. "once it's tethered to a leash people think of it as a pet" absurd. 


Number 5 is alive! 


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