Kickstarter smash hits like the Pebble Watch or Oculus Rift rise above the 59,000 other funded projects on the platform because they carry a certain polish, a “finished” feel, that backers love to buy into.

The Pocket Drone was one of those blockbuster projects. The team behind The Pocket Drone, AirDroids, raised $929,212 on a $35K ask and attracted national media attention from Tech Crunch, Wired, Popular Science and The Wall Street Journal with their Kickstarter Campaign that aimed to “democratize the sky”—but The Pocket Drone wasn’t always a headline grabber.The Pocket Drone

Like many astounding innovations, it started with a simple idea, passion, and the “maker” mentality. And, while The Pocket Drone now reigns as Kickstarter’s most successful project of it’s kind, it didn’t always feel so finished.

In fact, it didn’t even start as The Pocket Drone at all.


How The Pocket Drone was Born

“Let’s Make a Flying iPhone Case.”

TJ Johnson, AirDroids Co-Founder and CTO, is a trained engineer, Intellectual Property attorney and pilot. When he invited me to his basement workshop to tell the story of The Pocket Drone’s humble beginnings, I was reminded that even the most stunning steps forward in technology often start with a simple idea.

The incandescent light. The steam engine. The world wide web. The…flying iPhone case.

TJ was talking to his friend (and future Co-Founder) Tim Reuter at a DC area Drone User Group Meetup when they came up with a novel idea.

“Think we could make an iPhone fly?”

And thus the experimentation began.

TJ and Tim began diligently prototyping their flying iPhone case. Model after model was tried—different combinations of rotors, folding components, guidance mechanisms and more were tested.

And none of them worked.

“I’m convinced it’s impossible,” TJ chuckled.

But as they say, where one idea ends, another begins.

The Pocket Drone Folds Up

Aerial photography and videography for the average consumer was the key problem their flying iPhone case tried to solve. But the options already in the market were either to complicated, too large, too expensive, or not capable enough

In a world of remote controlled toys, TJ and Tim wanted a remote controlled tool.

So, with tons of experience trying to carry a big payload with a compact drone, the AirDroids team set out to make an affordable drone that simply did what users wanted it to do.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s…The Pocket Drone!

I’ll share more of The Pocket Drone story–and more Drone video–after TJ pitches at Verge on April 24th. For now, here’s a sneak peak at footage from a Pocket Drone prototype.

See TJ pitch The Pocket Drone at Verge on April 24th