I loved flying the Parrot AR Drone with my iPhone(s aapl) or iPad Air. I didn’t love the $299 price tag, although I’ll admit, it’s probably worth it since it’s so much fun. A remote flying machine doesn’t have to cost that much though, and clearly there’s demand for low-cost alternatives. The latest, PowerUp 3.0, is about to finish up its Kickstarter funding where it flew past its $50,000 goal with nearly $1.2 million raised.
What is PowerUp 3.0? It’s a small Bluetooth Smart module with propeller attached to a lightweight frame. Think of it as a smart flying skeleton that needs one more thing: A paper airplane that you provide. For as low as a $30 pledge and all the paper you provide, you can fly around the town from your iPhone or Android device.
To be fair, a $30 module that works with paper airplanes won’t compete with a $300 drone in many ways. It’s a low-cost way to have a fun experience, however, and it illustrates how versatile little radio chips can be. With Bluetooth Smart, range is limited to around 55 meters; my Parrot uses Wi-Fi and has a broader range. But both fly for roughly the same time on a single charge: About 10 minutes. That’s pretty amazing considering the Parrot battery is the size of a laptop charging brick while the PowerUp 3.0 module is the size of a U.S. quarter-dollar coin.
Since the PowerUp 3.0 blew though funding goals, most of the stretch goals were met as well. These include support for Android devices, controlling multiple paper airplanes from one phone, and a dogfight game mode. It’s unlikely the project will hit its $2 million stretch goal at this point; that would have added a camera mount for your paper airplane.
Funding for the PowerUp 3.0 ends tomorrow — Saturday, January 25 at 9:59 am EST — so if you’ve always wanted to get more flight time from your paper airplane creations, now’s the time to make your pledge.