“In the computer industry, vaporware is a product, typically computer hardware or software, that is announced to the general public but is never actually manufactured nor officially cancelled. Use of the word has broadened to include products such as automobiles.”
Publicly funded websites such as Kickstarter are a place where innovative and leading edge technological ideals can flourish. With enough backing, unprecedented creative products can be brought to life. Due to the success of some well-known crowdfunded products, when an innovative idea is presented, the success of previous projects can cloud the judgement of backers, often leading them into funding a failed product. Lately, this phenomenon has spilled into the drone industry. Since we are in the drone business, we feel it is our responsibility to shed some light on the ideas that are just too good to be true.
For informative purposes, here are some examples that didn’t quite live up to expectations.
The ZANO currently sits atop Europe’s most successfully funded Kickstarter project of all time. The Torquing Group behind this convenient micro-sized aircraft asked for £125,000 over a 45 day period. Thanks to some clever marketing and well-produced videos, that goal was reached in only 10 days. By the end of the full funding period, it had crept up to £2,335,119 thanks to 12,075 backers. Media outlets across the globe reported on the story of the amazing pocket sized wonder drone. After the funding period had ended, Torquing allowed customers to pay via Pre-Orders. With all this money and hype, it’s understandable that backers figured this product was destined for success. Yet, due to the unrealistic goals set by the company back when the project went live, the ZANO was merely a dud.
On November 11 of this year, BBC.com reported that the ZANO is a catastrophic failure. Rory Cellan-Jones personally visited the Zano team in August and were given demonstrations of the first batch of drones. “…it was not impressive, staying airborne for only a few minutes, colliding with walls, and delivering very poor video.” Their R&D director and former CEO, Ivan Reedman, assured that these would be fixed with upcoming software updates. Thus, the shipments were sent out and the backers retaliated responded. On the ZANO Kickstarter forum, it is clear that most of the features promised in the promo video were absent. To make matter worse, the first set of ZANOs were sent to people who had paid for pre-order instead of the backers who put this entire project into motion. And then on November 10th, the aforementioned Ivan Reedman resigned. He left a behind a dysfunctional company struggling to deliver on their promises, customers with a faulty product, and backers with no product or a resolution in sight. With the foundation of the company crumbling from underneath them, The Torquing Group decided to pull the plug and chose to pursue a “creditor’s voluntary liquidation.”
The ZANO is an extreme representation of failure to deliver on their drone product, but not the only one. The Pocket Drone by AirDroids was billed as the “world’s first multicopter that’s powerful enough to carry a high quality action camera and folds up smaller than a 7in tablet” by their creators. Their funding period lasted an entire two months, but they reached and then wildly exceeded their $35,000 goal within a week. With the help of some robust media coverage, a total of 1,946 backers pledged $929,212 to bring the Pocket Drone to life. With this much support, comes a lot of expectation. So, when shipping keeps getting delayed for months at a time and the company’s constant updates become ambiguous, it’s natural for backers start to abandon faith. But, after a 6-month delay the final product was finally shipped out to the first group of backers. Here are some of their reactions: Unboxing Review. Pocket Drone Flying. Our Favorite. It’s clear the final product could not hold up even during perfect flying conditions. A task that every drone should pass with flying colors.
Our message here is this, all that glitters is not gold. These are amazing concepts that gathered a lot of hype and funding, but the hard truth is that the technology just isn’t there yet. The world’s largest drone companies have 100x the amount of funding, a team of brilliant engineers, and facilities to cut down on manufacturing cost. If anybody can turn these dreams into reality, it’s them. That’s not to say that all hope is lost on Kickstarter and the like. Publicly funded projects is new-age venture capitalism. But, please do your research. A flashy promo video and some linked news articles doesn’t guarantee anything.
Director of Media Relations for Kickstarter urges backers to not be so impulsive: “We encourage backers to do some research on the creator and their project before backing, and to evaluate their ability to complete the project,” David Gallagher.