Hex Airbot Shatters Crowdfunding Goal For Its Cheap, 3D Printed Drones

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Hex’s tiny Airbot drone first turned heads earlier this year at China-based hardware accelerator Haxlr8r’s second demo day, and now the team behind it is finally pushing to bring the inexpensive flier to market by way of a recent-launched Kickstarter campaign.

The basics will probably sound a little familiar: like other consumer-oriented drones on the market, users can control the Hex from smartphones with Bluetooth 4.0 support, and the team is also selling camera modules to bolt on the thing as it goes off on its seven-minute flights. Throw in a flight-stabilization system to simplify the controls and you’ve got a fun little toy to harass the neighbors with.

But is sheer novelty enough? To be quite honest, there’s no shortage of startups and incumbents out there trying to make a name for themselves by trying to bring remote-controlled drones to the masses — there’s France-based Parrot and its popular line of AR drones, to say nothing of India’s Social Drones and A16Z-backed Airware to name just a few. Competition is getting to be awfully stiff (even if your average person on the street would be probably hard-pressed to come up with reasons to use one), but the Hex team thinks it has a few advantages over the rest of the pack.

The drone’s body is entirely 3D printed for one, which Hex’s Arnie Bhadury says makes the process of tweaking the thing and prototyping new designs substantially easier.

“It’s very easy to iterate and update the product just like any modern-day software,” Bhadury said. “It also allows customization and personalization from the user’s point of view.” Considering how cheap 3D printing new cases and components could be, it’s not impossible to see how selling those sorts of accessories could become a new revenue stream for the young company.

It’s hard to argue with the price tag, too. The most basic version can be had for a scant $50, which is enough to make it a tantalizing weekend project for wannabe hardware hackers and air jockeys who want to fiddle with the airbot’s Arduino-compatible board. Naturally, prices for more robust rewards can get pretty steep — it’ll cost you $469 for an airbot plus a video transmitter module and a pair of video goggles to see exactly what’s going on up there — but the project already seems to have struck a chord. The team’s Kickstarter campaign is only a week old, but they’ve already managed to shatter their modest funding goal. They’re hoping to pick up $10,000 in funding from drone enthusiasts, but the current tally is sitting over $180,000 with plenty of time left on the clock.