A photo of SelFly drone unfolded/expanded into its 'flying' form.

SelFly Drone Reaches $1m In Funding, The Next Zano?

About to exceed $1m in funding via over 8,000 backers and selling for only $99 with an under-par specification, SelFly is very likely to be the next Zano. A message to KickStarter backers, request a refund whilst you still can.

The team at Torquing Robotics and their customers discovered just how impossible it was to design, build and manufacture a viable autonomous drone (Zano). SelFly is attempting to do the same but at only 1/3rd the price and with far less experience in the industry.

CEO for SelFly, Hagay Klein, is an ex-dentist/orthodontist from Israel with seemingly no prior experience in drone development, nor project management and yet he and his team believe that they can deliver a drone to over 8,000 backers.

With numerous spelling mistakes visible in the road-map illustration and even the campaign video, it is shocking that so many consumers have put their trust and hard-earned money into this project, despite the low price-tag.

An optimistic specification…

Retailing at only $99, the SelFly Camera drone crowdfund project proposes the following specification:

  • 136.1 mm x 66.0 mm x 9mm.
  • 5.5mm propellers.
  • 8.5mm x 20mm coreless brushed motors.
  • Battery: 3.7V 650mah Li-Po
  • Weighing only 70g.
  • Very stable with autonomous flight.
  • 5 minutes flight time.
  • iOS and Android App control.
  • Wifi connectivity.
  • 8mpx camera providing 1080p @ 30fps
  • Video analysis (face, smile and follow)
  • Live video stream to app.
  • Auto piloting stabilisation system.
  • Integration of 3 orientation indices for maximum flight stability
    • 4 channel control with 6 axis gyro
    • Ultrasonic altitude sensor
    • Optic sensor

A key missing element of this specification is that SelFly does not incorporate a GPS, therefore this very lightweight drone powered only by brushed motors will drift significantly and will struggle to hold its position in even the lightest of breeze, whether flying inside or out.

A prototype of the SelFly drone used for many of the 'tech-magazine' reviews.
A prototype of the SelFly drone used for many of the ‘tech-magazine’ reviews.

The ‘stabilisation’ system would appear to incorporate an ultrasonic sensor and optical flow camera but at such a low RRP, it is unlikely that this functionality will deliver the results expected by its eager consumers.

Even high-end drones struggle to hold position in hover via similar technology, a drone at 1/10th the price has much to prove.

The low price-point of SelFly means that it is built with ‘brushed’ motors instead of the more modern, longer-lasting and far more efficient ‘brushless’ variant. The downside with brushed motors is their short life-span, needing to be replaced after approximately 5-6 hours of cumulative use, it has not been made clear as to whether SelFly will offer easily replaceable spares.

The folding mechanism of the motors is tidy and allows the overall form-factor to be very compact but this design looks brittle and easily broken, the motors are barely supported by this design and just a single crash is likely to break the folding mechanism and hinged motor mount.

A photo of SelFly drone unfolded/expanded into its 'flying' form.
A photo of SelFly drone unfolded/expanded into its ‘flying’ form, showing the vulnerable design of the folding brushed motor holders.

SelFly has a tiny 650mAh 1s battery inbuilt and non-replaceable which means that flights will be short with a charging time of approximately 30 minutes.

Powering a front-facing camera, downward facing optical flow camera, ultrasonic sensor and WiFi PCB means that flight time will most likely be less than 2-3 minutes (despite a claim of 5 minutes) and with each recharge, the inbuilt battery will degrade consequently shortening flight time, ultimately reaching the point where the inbuilt battery requires replacement.

The SelFly drone in its folded form.
The SelFly drone in its folded form.

With no inbuilt SD card, photos and video are stored in inbuilt RAM only but no sizing has been given for this storage. If the battery capacity is depleted entirely, there is a possibility that photos and videos captured will be lost entirely.

And with no gimbal or mention of EIS (Electronic Image Stabilisation) it is unlikely that the video output from this drone will be usable. The aspect ratio of the video would also appear to be the old-fashioned 4:3 as opposed to the more common 16:9.

CE & FCC certification is essential…

For a product to sell internationally, it requires CE and FCC certification but at this time it is unknown as to whether SelFly have applied for or received approval for these licences, without which it is possible that the product will not even be permitted to ship to its destination countries.

Overall one paragraph should concern backers significantly and whilst we applaud SelFly for their honesty, we suspect that many backers have not fully absorbed the meaning of this text featured at the very base of the KickStarter campaign page.

“SELFLY’s main clip shows the target of the final product. With your support we will get there. Although we have several working prototypes, the current prototype is yet to include the full and final functionality and components to be included in the product, and in order to reach the manufacturing stage further development should be carried out. However, full functionality as described is fully feasible.

Translated in rough terms, this means that SelFly do not have a finished product and are merely flying prototypes at this time which are a long way from incorporating the full/final functionality committed within the campaign specification. It also suggests that the promotional video is indeed simulated and does not feature a working SelFly.

“…our subcontractors are well-known companies, and are quite experienced in the mini drone tech field, making our work plans and budget expectations well-planned in order to accurately estimate the development process through to shipping.  We are sure that our product will meet your expectations.”

‘Quite experienced’ these subcontractors might be but SelFly fail to provide any of their names, accreditation, nor to quantify the use of the term ‘experienced’.

Unjustified press/media hype…

Interest in the SelFly campaign has been boosted significantly by popular tech-magazines promoting the product in articles and editorials, but once again the popular tech-magazines fail to take the time to assess viability nor consumer ignorance to key elements missing from this specification.

DroningON has spent the past year assisting customers to avoid falling into the pit-falls of illogical, irrational and misleading crowd-funding campaigns such as SelFly, we have also helped customers through the pain of failed crowdfunders such as Lily and Zano, predicting their failure from the outset.

Lily Drone
The failed Lily Drone project, for which many backers are still awaiting a refund.

SelFly approached DroningON requesting that we provide coverage of their campaign, we responded to question the specification and viability of this project. We  received the following response:

“Thanks so much for letting us know your concerns and we understand them! I’d like to point out SELFLY is simply tapping into technology that already exists. Its focus is not on inventing new technology, but on miniaturization and affordability, making a more simple and focused product in order to enable users with a great experience. It isn’t inventing the wheel, just using the processing power of your smartphone and taking high end stabilization technology and compacting it into a 9mm thin phone case.”, Sharon Kaslassi, Blonde20 PR Agency

We also asked if review models were available in order to evaluate and test SelFly…

“Unfortunately, at this time we have a very limited number of prototypes so we’re unable to send one out. We do appreciate any kind of coverage that we can get so please do let me know if you have anymore questions at all!”

Many backers might may repeat the old saying “Its only $99 and I accept the risk for potentially losing my investment” but why waste $99 on a product which will struggle to deliver, and even if SelFly manges to delivery, the end-product will not meet the expectations of its backers.

And all of this to deliver in just 3 months time to meet their June 2017 delivery date.

We urge backers to carefully consider the content above and be sure to comment below with your thoughts, we are here to help.


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