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Just in time for new US rules allowing drones for movie-making, a Toronto startup is launching a campaign to send swarms of lightweight cameras into the skies. The PlexiDrone is a small quadcopter with a snap-in socket for lifting a variety of prosumer (iHLS newsdesk: short for producer-consumer) devices skyward, from point-and-shoots to GoPros.
DreamQii, the company behind the PlexiDrone, boasts that the aircraft’s design lets users capture 360 degrees of footage without propellers or landing gear getting in the way. Pilots can control multiple drones using a smartphone or tablet along with a custom Bluetooth hub to shoot from multiple points-of-view simultaneously. Wired.com recently reported that to get off the ground, the company is hoping to raise $100,000 on Indiegogo in a campaign launched Wednesday.
PlexiDrone’s makers say it has the ability to follow whoever or whatever is being filmed by homing in on a GPS signal. It’s not the only drone to offer that feature, but the point is more ease-of-use than originality. Considering that the nearest possible parallel – sending up multiple helicopters – is not only incredibly expensive by comparison but also simply unable to provide the kind of granular control promised by drones. The applications are many and varied, from tracking anything through traffic monitoring and broadcasting live games to real-time emergency imagery.
The debut comes less than a week after the Federal Aviation Administration announced that six film production companies had been granted exemptions that would allow them to fly drones to shoot movies and television. The agency’s decision came out of negotiations with the Motion Picture Association of America, which pushed for the liberalized rules, in part, to stem the exodus of filmmakers taking productions outside the US to countries with fewer restrictions on the commercial use of drones.
In crafting its exemptions, the FAA still kept many limitations in place. Drone operators must be certified, and the drones must be within their line of sight at all times. They can only fly above closed sets, and the FAA needs to be notified. These restrictions are meant to ensure drones only fly under controlled, predictable circumstances to minimize safety risks.
The public will likely need greater assurances than these before they’re comfortable with drones flying overhead in everyday life. But momentum is clearly shifting toward sending more eyes skyward.