I met Timothy Reuter, a drone entrepreneur, this past summer while reporting a story about the emergence of personal drones. He wasn’t actually a drone entrepreneur yet. As the leader of the D.C. Area Drone User Group, which then had more than 500 members, he was more of a drone evangelist.
“I believe we can take this technology,” he had told me, “and start with ordinary people to create small businesses, to do art, to monitor the natural resources of the community.”
He apparently believed what he said so much that he went out and created a small business himself.
With a San Diego drone evangelist, Reuter recently co-founded AirDroids, which earlier this month launched its first product: the Pocket Drone, a collapsable, under $500 flying robot that comes ready-to-fly right out of the box. The drone was launched on Kickstarter, the popular crowd funding site. The goal: Raise $35,000. In under two weeks, this is the amount AirDroids has raised: $330,000. And counting.
“Frankly I am happily shocked at the response,” Reuter told me the other day.
“Until now, most people could not participate in this awesome new technology revolution — the cost was too great, the drones too bulky, and the software too difficult to operate,” the company says on Kickstarter. AirDroids hopes to solve that early adopter problem by giving flyers a (relatively) easy-to-use product that can be operational right away, with little hassle or know-how. How fast can it deploy? Twenty seconds. It can fly via GPS. It can be controlled with a tablet. It can stay in the air for 20 minutes.
Reuter sees dozens of uses, chief among them taking beautiful aerial photographs.
“We want to democratize the sky,” he said.
The past few months have seen a surge of interest in personal drones, capped off by Amazon founder (and Washington Post owner) Jeff Bezos telling “60 Minutes” that his company wanted to deliver packages via drone.
“That was a watershed moment because it was the first time that millions of Americans thought about drones doing something for them,” Reuter said, with his company calling 2014 “The Year of the Drone.” “It really did open people’s minds: Hey, these things could be useful.”