If someone asked you to close your eyes and imagine a drone, I’m fairly confident that you’d picture something that looked similar to a DJI Phantom. The DJI Phantom is even the “standard design” in our fantasies, shown here in this Dilbert comic. While there are other designs, they aren’t as common.
The Sprite drone is something completely different. The KickStarter funded development team behind the Sprite are trying to solve two key problems. First drones are hard to carry and second they can break easily in transit. To solve these problems, they felt they needed a new design.
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.
The Sprite is not inexpensive. It starts at $799 without a remote control. Add another $150 for the control, and another $300 for first-person view capabilities and the price quickly adds up to $1,249. That makes it more expensive than a DJI Phantom 3. Since it’s a crowdfunded project, you always have the concern that the project will fail before shipping product. I’m optimistic on the Sprite, because not only is it a KickStarter Staff Pick, they’ve also successfully raised more than 2x their original of $200,000. To date, the team behind the Sprite have raised $406,061, thanks to 532 backers.
Here is a list of the Sprite’s key features:
- Enclosed, compact, rugged and water resistant airframe
- Well-proven, fully autonomous autopilot with GPS and inflight telemetry
- Wide range of sophisticated autonomous flight modes including waypoint navigation and “follow me”
- 1080P high-definition video with 2-axis stabilized gimbal
- Push-button interface lets you leave your tablet computer or RC radio at home
- Range of up to 4 miles (more than 6km), depending on mission, equipment and environment
- FPV (First-Person-View) ready
How Sprite Works:
Sprite™ is a sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicle. Fly autonomously under the guidance of its powerful autopilot, or manually using a conventional flight controller or Android mobile device.
Without requiring any further development, Sprite™ supports all the features of the latest Tower™, DroidPlanner™ and MissionPlanner™ flight control software, available for free for Android and the PC. These applications are open source platforms that have been in service for years by thousands of operators around the world.
Here are a few videos:
Sprite: portable and rugged. A totally different drone.
If all goes well, delivery of the Sprite is slated for December 2015.