AIrDroids (PocketCopter) ceasing operations

Sorry to see this notice from AirDroids, who had launched the PocketCopter on Kickstarter, but glad to see their list of "lessons learned". Manufacturing is really, really hard, and they were not the first or last Kickstarter project to get in over their head in the process of going from prototype to product. 

Dear Drone Lovers,

We are writing to let you know that AirDroids, Inc. is ceasing operations. As of this week, we have sent out units for all the orders that we received addresses for. Our company ran out of money a few months ago, but we have been able to fulfill all orders through a recapitalization of the company funded by the projects creators taking out tens of thousands of dollars in personal loans.

In this message we want to answer two questions. First, how did a project that raised nearly a million dollars run out of money? Second, what does this mean for our Kickstarter® backers and customers?

There are three primary factors that led to significantly greater costs than we originally anticipated. Some of the issues that arose could not have been predicted, others were attempts to make things better for our customers.

First, the unprecedented success of our Kickstarter® campaign meant that we manufactured around 20 times more orders than we originally anticipated. To address this challenge and to make the product more durable for our customers, we decided to do a complete redesign of the system. After seeking advice on how to handle the higher production numbers, we engaged contract engineers who had more experience in designing for higher production runs and who were specialized in designing plastic parts for injection molding. The cost for their services cut significantly into our budget.

Second, since the redesign caused delays in the production schedule, we decided to minimize further delays by making our molds and doing assembly in the United States, rather than outsourcing production to China or Taiwan. This approach was intended to give us the flexibility that we needed to make course corrections and was also a great opportunity to support local businesses. However, this decision significantly increased our mold and tooling costs.

Finally, given the success of our Kickstarter® campaign, we ordered extra parts to be able to build more units for post campaign sales. Much to our disappointment, our Shenzhen suppliers did not consider orders for 2000 units to be sizable enough to give us a large volume discount. We were forced, therefore, to estimate our market demand and our “part failure” rates in order to get the pricing necessary. Further, when the parts arrived, the “dead on arrival” rate was higher than we anticipated.

These key decisions, combined with the already high bill of materials and Kickstarter® and Amazon Payments taking an 8% cut of total funds raised, left us with a minimal financial cushion. In addition to these expenses, the cost of assembly, packaging, shipping, and salaries for our small manufacturing staff caused us to be significantly in the red financially.

The company’s leadership did not receive any profits or distributions off of this project, and took on over $100,000 in personal debt to be able to contribute additional capital to the company in order to assemble and ship all the units that were ordered. Of course, this is all due to our own decisions and we are not soliciting sympathy. Our hope is to provide you, our backers, with some context for what happened and perhaps help other makers with Kickstarter® dreams avoid similar mistakes.

Our small staff has been notified that they are being laid off. Unfortunately, upon the completion of the final orders, the company has ceased operations and will not be able to receive returns or send out additional parts or units, as there is neither staff nor money to do so. We have sent out all orders that we received addresses for. A small group of Kickstarter® backers never provided addresses in response to the backer survey we sent out and we have not been able to ship those orders. Also, some of the packages that were sent out could not be delivered by UPS as the address and contact information provided was incorrect or the recipient did not follow up with customs to meet local import requirements. 

We are putting our design files on our website, which you can access at www.airdroids.com/files.html. You may attempt to use these to generate your own spare parts, although please be advised that results created from a 3D printer may differ significantly from what we created using injection molded plastics and we make no guarantees regarding the designs and their functionality. Please use them at your own risk. 

With The Pocket Drone®, we wanted to provide our customers with a powerful user-friendly tool to enhance exploration and preserve memories. We are deeply grateful for the support and forbearance of all of our backers and customers. We have also been impressed and humbled by the amazing community of people who came together to improve upon the designs we generated and support other users. We wish you safe flight, and hope you will all continue to enjoy the magic of being able to see the world from a new perspective.

Team AirDroids

Views: 9792


Admin
Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on May 21, 2015 at 12:51pm

Bummer:-)

However, a nice laundry list of lessons learned that may help other would be entrepreneurs not to suffer your pitfalls.

Regards,

TCIII AVD

Comment by Marc Dornan on May 21, 2015 at 12:54pm

I fully believe they could be out of pocket. If they actually took on extra personal debt to deliver all the ordered units that makes them pretty ethical business people. Consumer drones seem to be deceptively difficult to execute on. That said most successful people fail the first time at anything ambitious. I do not know these folk but if they are still interested in being in this industry this experience should put them in a good position to have another stab.

Comment by Gary McCray on May 21, 2015 at 2:46pm

Hi All,

Definitely appreciate this excellent Post Mortem, very informative.

This reinforces my feelings in general about KickStarter and IndieGogo.

I can easily believe that success on KickStarter can be as problematic as failure.

I have considered this myself, but have decided that although they provide great initial exposure the problems related to a potentially huge commitment without any realistic way to predict the problems that you will encounter outweighs the advantages.

I will be introducing some KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) H dead Cat type quadcopter frames, kits, ARF and RTF in a few months myself.

ConvertaQuad and PhotoQuad (Websites already under construction).

http://www.convertaquad.com/

http://photoquad.com/index.html

The old fashioned hard way - self financed and self manufactured in my own 40' Cargo Container machine shop.

You will get what you see (WYSIWYG), not a promise for X+ months down the road.

And at least the limb I will be out on will be relatively close to the ground.

Best,

Gary

Comment by Greg Dronsky on May 21, 2015 at 3:19pm

That is a very valuable post. I am going to think about it a lot. Hope Airdrods guys will get on track soon. 

Comment by Marc Dornan on May 21, 2015 at 3:37pm
Looks good Gary. I am getting a pretty interesting open source quad revamped by it's creator in Germany. Germany. It employs a fully floating central section with main lipo mass coupled to the gimbal mount and fc mounting plate. Vibes for the FC are hardly measurable and hence the video is jelloless even with bigger props. When I have it cut I would be interested in your feedback. You always seem to have a good take on these things.

Developer
Comment by Randy on May 21, 2015 at 4:14pm

Their product didn't work out too well it seems but the leaders have integrity.

Comment by Gary McCray on May 21, 2015 at 6:55pm

Hi Marc,

In addition to supplying any and all components inexpensively, my intention is to publish all fabrication specs for free and open use.

Basically if anybody can make it cheaper, or better have a go at it.

Or possibly more reasonably build one to your own specs using what parts of mine you want, even cut, drilled and milled to your specs if needed.

I've got a few nifty and new things such as the silicone antivibration mounts for the motors and for the arm mounts (and no they absolutely do not permit excess arm movement relative to the frame).

And the pop out arm / frame mounts should be able to deal with most sub-optimal obstacle encounters. 

Even working on auto power disconnect for that one.

And these copters are both light weight and really, really rugged.

Top quality made in USA G10 / FR4 and carbon fiber frame plates and Carbon Fiber tube arms.

I totally agree with the battery mass attached to the vibration isolated frame section theory.

My Hoverthings FPV Pro works that way and it does kill the vibration very effectively.

I've just done it a little differently and isolated the whole frame.

Definitely not going to get rich doing this, but they will be good quadcopters.

Best,

Gary

Comment by Quadzimodo on May 21, 2015 at 7:11pm
Randy - What on earth gives you the impression that the leaders of AirDroid have integrity? Everything they have done since day dot has lacked an element of honesty and transparency. They refused to maintain dialog with their generous backers, failed to deliver functional rewards to backers who can ill afford to outlay hundreds of dollars for a product that doesn't work. No one, other than the bloke I personally assisted, has even flown their pocket drone successfully for more than a few moments. Many backers have recieved nothing for their investment, and it appears at this point that they never will.

All - Judging by the above post, and previous comments made by the AirDroids team, my impression is that Tim and TJ have likely used this "recapitalisation" to rob AirDroids of the one good asset it may have - it's patent.

We should not be issuing passes for those who act dishonestly to defraud people of their hard earned money. These guys are crooks in my view.
Comment by Marc Dornan on May 21, 2015 at 7:48pm

Gary - this is not the thread for it but when I get something cut I will send you a video. It is a mark 2 of the Explorer 4 that Luke Cooke posted on DIYD. I persuaded him to fire up the CAD and make some changes. This one will be 650mm (thanks to Aimdroix arms), have an access hatch for the FC, a hard point for landing skids, possibility for a downward facing mapping camera, a front platform for a 3 axis gimbal, room for a 6500maH battery. FC, front mounted gimbal, bottom mount and FC are all coupled to the battery mass on a central plate resting on 10 compression dampers. All in a Discovery Pro-like frame. It is open source. If it works out, maybe you will take a shine to it and improve it. I look forward to trying your design and will order one when you get the site up.

Comment by Gary McCray on May 21, 2015 at 8:36pm

Definitely interesting to hear your take Quadzi,

The fact is that even those who did / do get them do not have any recourse now for any problems and my suspicion is that very few of them will end up being very serviceable for very long.

One of the problems with this jump start out of the gate method is that you have a much greater chance of producing a Titanic sized disaster than if you take a more measured and progressive approach.

Certainly you can still fail but at least you take a lot less people down with you.

Even now there are a ton of vapor ware (or nearly so) multicopter Kick and Indie projects touting all kinds of autonomous capabilities without any mention of the potential safety hazards all that autonomousness results in.

And without much proof that they can even perform what they claim to any degree of believe-ability.

And even many of the supposed demonstration videos are obviously shot from platforms other than what they are selling.

Unfortunately, multicopters are a hot ticket item right now and a lot of them are actually getting substantial funding.

There will be "more" blood.

Best,

Gary

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