The celebrity investors on Shark Tank have unanimously agreed to invest money into drone maker xCraft.
Charles Manning and founder JD Claridge made a successful pitch on the popular ABC television show, raising money for a drone that can take off like a helicopter and move forward like an aircraft. The outcome was revealed on Friday, as the pre-recorded Shark Tank episode aired.
Meanwhile, the company has also re-launched a crowdfunding campaign for a Phone Drone, a drone that uses a smartphone to overcome the limitations of other consumer drones on the market. The campaign has already beaten its $100,000 goal, having raised $133,000 with 36 days to go.
The problem with most rotor drones is that they can hover well, but they can’t shoot fast-moving subjects. They also have a short range, often limited to the range of a Wi-Fi connection or a Bluetooth wireless connection.
But the xCraft X PlusOne drone has multi-rotor capabilities that let it hover, as well as a fixed-wing design that gives it high-speed flight. You put your smartphone into the drone, and the drone then uses that device to take pictures or videos. The X PlusOne can fly at 60 miles per hour, pitch over 90 degrees, and go as high as 10,000 feet.
The result is a drone that is capable of long-range flight and can perform stunts such as skimming the treetops. The xCraft drone can self-stabilize in both hover and forward flight modes. It also has a longer flight range because it relies on either preprogrammed flight paths or upon a connection to the smartphone via cell phone signals.
The original xCraft drone is known as a hybrid VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), because of its ability to take off vertically and then move forward directionally. These attributes make it useful for photographers, hobbyists, and even commercial drone operators, who use it for precision agriculture or surveillance.
Manning said the hybrid xCraft design distinguishes it from other UAVs built by DJI, Parrot, or 3DR. In addition, its interchangeable nose cone means various camera types can be attached to the frame of the UAV.
Meanwhile, Manning said the company has completed production units of the original xCraft for its earlier Kickstarter campaign, and that those units are now shipping. The company beat that Kickstarter crowdfunding goal by 300 percent, raising $143,400. So far, xCraft has raised less than $1 million from a variety of sources.
Manning said the Phone Drone’s cost can be kept relatively low because it leverages the navigation, motion-sensing, camera, and operating environment of the phone. Using the phone also makes developing drone apps easy because they can be based on the common iOS or Android operating systems.
One new feature that comes from this integration is the ability to embed Phone Drone features into the Periscope app – enabling aerial flight with Periscope livestreaming – while tethered to a secondary phone. xCraft tried a crowdfunding effort for the Phone Drone earlier this year, but didn’t hit its target.
Manning is also well-known in mobile app circles as the chief executive of Kochava. He met Claridge, an aerospace engineer, and agreed to mentor him for the purpose of commercializing Claridge’s designs. They formed a company in 2014 and currently have a team of six in Sandpoint, Idaho.