Personal drone enthusiasts — specifically, those who like flying quadcopters — have a new way to make the experience a lot more social. Meet the Flytrex Live: a ‘black box’-style flight recorder that connects to the Internet in real-time to unlock a burgeoning online community of drone hobbyists who can follow each other’s flight paths, take part in challenges and, in future, fly in groups.
“Both Amit and I have been flying quadcopters for recreational purposes for a long time now, and we always wondered why can’t we see and play with one another and with other drone hobbyists. It felt like there’s a whole social dimension that is currently missing,” explains Yariv Bash, who, along with his co-founder, Amit Regev, conceived of the idea behind Flytrex Live.
The project started life as a much simpler device. The original Flytrex Core is a ‘black box’ flight recorder, sans Internet connectivity. Instead, you save your drone’s flight parameters to a micro SD card.
“We posted a few messages on some quadcopter forums and found that people are willing to buy the black box and are looking for that kind of interaction and challenges,” says Bash. Thus, the Flytrex Live was born.
Adding a live Internet connection — which is powered by 2G GPRS via a dedicated microSIM slot — enables a number of interesting features.
The most obvious is the ability to follow flight paths in real-time via Google maps integration on your Flytrex personal “Flight Channel”. In addition, that flight telemetry data can be shared with other pilots, or pushed to Facebook.
That “social enabler”, as Bash frames it, also lets Flytrex set challenges for the community, such as who can fly the furthest distance. These challenges come with their own leaderboard and, ultimately, unlock various achievement “badges”. The longer-term vision is to enable owners of almost any kind of quadcopter-type drone to upload their missions to the Flytrex website, creating a social environment for drone enthusiasts.
Finally, the Flytrex Live can act like a traditional ‘black box’, should you lose track of your drone or it crashes unexpectedly.
Explains Bash: “As with every new technology, there are crashes and ‘fly aways’. The Live allows you to investigate your crashes and locate a lost quad, saving you from crashing again for the same reason or saving thousands of dollars worth of equipment in case of a fly away. When it comes to drones, there’s nothing more sad than losing your GoPro or DSLR equipped quadcopter.”
(In addition to Flytrex, Bash is one of the founders of smart bicycle alarm, The Cricket, and a founder and former CEO of SpaceIL, the Israeli non-profit working on sending an unmanned spacecraft to the moon.)