OnagoFly Drone/QuadcopterOnagoFly Drone/Quadcopter

A recent crowd-funded project under scrutiny right now is the IndieGoGo Crowd-Funded OnagoFly, a small-sized quadcopter said to feature autonomy such as ‘Follow Me’, ‘Auto-Takeoff/Landing’ and a range of video/photo features too.

  • Read Part 2 of the exclusive OnagoFly interview
  • Read Part 3 of the exclusive OnagoFly interview

The project was launched on IndieGoGo in 2015 and was able to raise $3m (£2.1m) in crowd-funding revenue.

As of this time (March 2016) the project has already shipped 500 ‘first-generation’ units to the USA, but initial reactions have not been positive and backers have struggled to get this little aircraft in the air due to a combination of elements.

OnagoFly have struggled with communication and a number of questions have been left unanswered due to the company lacking resources to handle the flood of enquiries.

DroningOn took it upon ourselves to get in touch OnagoFly in order to meet-and-greet and present questions raised by backers (and us) and obtain solid answers. We only had an hour during lunchtime but the session was very useful and productive and we thank OnagoFly for their time.

This is part 1 of the interview, part 2 will follow later this week. This first half of the interview is focused on project, operations and general questions.

D-On: Thanks for joining us today,  would you introduce yourselves?

Zoe: “Thanks, on the call is me [Zoe] and Dr Wei. I am responsible for OnagoFly Sales whilst Dr Wei is the Director of R&D.”

D-On: Greetings to you both – so is this the first crowd-funded project that you have both worked on?

Dr Wei: “Yes, this is our first crowd-funded project but we are considering our next crowd-funded project already which will be a slightly bigger drone with more useful features/functions, for example we may add on some advanced sensors such as optical flow and sonar which will help to keep drones stable in indoor environments.”

D-On: Has your organisation launched a B2C (Business to Consumer) product before or have you always been a B2B company?

Dr Wei: “Our company has been running for 13 years and our past experience is mainly in action cameras and similar products. Three years ago we started developing a quadcopter which became the ‘OnagoFly’ and last December we started the crowd-funder project on IndieGoGo. At that time all designs were complete.”

D-On: So you’re aware that the first batch of 500 shipped to the USA have resulted in disappointment? Via Facebook Groups and YouTube we have only heard of a few from this initial batch which partially fly, the majority have had problems.

Dr Wei: “That is unfortunately correct and we acknowledge that those units have all suffered from issues/problems. In that very first batch the GPS wasn’t working properly and so ‘Hover’ and ‘Follow Me’ didn’t work, but after two weeks we had fixed the issue and renewed the firmware, so previous users may update or return their OnagoFly units to the USA address for replacement.” (Note: The firmware update solution will be explained in part 2 of this interview).

D-On: That all sounds very positive, but why didn’t you carry out ‘Beta Testing’ with a small and specifically selected group of quadcopter enthusiasts/experts prior to shipping that first batch?, why is this as it would have allowed bugs and issues to be resolved before mass-manufacture

Dr Wei: “Beta testing is a great idea but we (OnagoFly) do not have much experience in the industry yet and we were working as hard as possible to fulfil the backers expectations before the IndieGoGo campaign deadline and so units had to be sent without full testing, we acknowledge now that this was a mistake and we promise to provide the updated software to customers or will swap the unit.”

D-On:  Do you acknowledge that sending this first initial batch was not a good idea and have you sent communications to all 500 of these backers to instruct them on what to do to get help?

Zoe: “We agree and are contacting those backers one-by-one via email to ask for feedback. We are offering to replace any of the faulty first batch with either the new v1.0 or the v1.5 to be released in April.”

UPDATE 24/03/16: OnagoFly have now confirmed that the v1.5 model will no longer be produced as they have improved the v1.0 model to the degree that the larger version with a smaller battery would be unproductive.

D-On: On the subject of communications, many backers have complained that communication from OnagoFly has been poor since the start of the campaign, why did the project not have a plan for communication besides an occasional comment from ‘Sam Tsu’ on Indiegogo? Zoe has been great…

Dr Wei: “Zoe has worked very hard to communicate with customers and she is currently the ‘window’ to our backers and customers. We (myself and Sam Tsu our CEO) communicate our technical progress to Zoe so that she can communicate that out to the backers.”

D-On: And many backers are frustrated that despite stating that you have a “working” product, we are yet to see OnagoFly release any detailed demonstration videos which illustrate all features including ‘Follow Me’. We have seen 10 second video clips and short poor quality tutorial/setup videos with terrible audio but we are yet to see professionally filmed demonstrations to prove that OnagoFly does work, why is this?

Zoe: “The videos released were low quality because they were compressed (due to VPN issues in China) and we’re reworking those videos now to release them high resolution, these new videos will be finished by next week (w/c 14/03/16).”

D-On: Why not create an ‘OnagoFly’ YouTube Channel to which you can upload all videos for demonstrations, tutorials and technical updates?

Dr Wei & Zoe: “That is a great idea, we’ll do that.”

D-On: You have announced an ‘updated’ v1.0 as well as a new v1.5 which is to be released in April. I suspect that backers are generally going to all want the new v1.5 even if that means waiting?

Zoe: “Right now our updated version v1.0 is really good and functioning very well and we believe that backers/customers will be really happy with it. Therefore we suggest that the backers go for v1.0 and enjoy it because with v1.5 we are still in development and although it has a changeable battery it is a smaller battery and so flight time will be shorter too.

We genuinely believe that the updated v1.0 is the best choice. Backers will be shipped v1.0 unless they let us know via email that they want to wait for v1.5.”

UPDATE 24/03/16: OnagoFly have now confirmed that the v1.5 model will no longer be produced as they have improved the v1.0 model to the degree that the larger version with a smaller battery would be unproductive.

D-On: So tell us more about the differences with v1.5 compared to the updated v1.0?

Dr Wei: “The v1.5 has two main differences, firstly we use a removable battery instead of a fixed battery as in v1.0. We have also had to enlarge the size of the quadcopter to 150mm so it is bigger than v1.0 and will consequently be slightly heavier (no weight confirmation at this time as it is still in development).

The sensors and algorithms are all precisely the same, but in the updated v1.0 we introduced a new technology to protect the battery following issues experienced in the previous batch. The downside of v1.0 is that the battery must still be disconnected when not OnagoFly but the difference now is that the battery protection will prevent the previous issue experienced.

Finally in the updated v1.0 and v1.5, a special coating has been added inside the OnagoFly to decrease the electromagnetic noise which had previously affected the GPS signal in the first 1.0 batch.”

UPDATE 24/03/16: OnagoFly have now confirmed that the v1.5 model will no longer be produced as they have improved the v1.0 model to the degree that the larger version with a smaller battery would be unproductive.

D-On: With which devices (iOS and Android) have you been testing OnagoFly internally so that users can be confident that their device will be fully compatible?

Dr Wei: “For Android we tested with a variety of Samsung, Huawei and HTC devices and for iOS we tested with numerous iPhones and will confirm for you which specifically in Part 2.”

D-On: Once backers receive their OnagoFly, is there a ‘warranty’ or ‘guarantee’ period and if so for how long is that warranty valid?

Zoe: “We provide 14 days money-back guarantee during which you can return the OnagoFly for a refund, we will also honour 1 year for any quality or manufacturing faults.”

D-On: Will all spares be available via an online shop for OnagoFly, for example to include props, motors, PCB, body and shell components?

Dr Wei: “Currently we only provide the props, battery, carry case and charger as spares. We don’t currently plan to sell spare motors or internal components because fitting/replacing them requires technical expertise and so it would be hard work for the average/normal user. However, we are considering a wider range of spares in the next generation OnagoFly (2.0+). But, we will evaluate the demand for spares for v1.0/v1.5 and possibly provide these additional elements if there are sufficient requests.”

D-On: Are the internal components modular, for example the PCB, the camera and the cables connecting the central PCB to the motors and if so can elements be upgraded such as the camera?

Dr Wei: “Components inside the OnagoFly 1.0 and 1.5 cannot be easily changed, but this request is noted and v2.0 will support such a more modular design.”

(Thanks to Peter Bloch for capturing the above images)

D-On: Has any testing been completed on how much weight an OnagoFly can lift? For example, to offer the possibility that a micro-gimbal and camera could be attached?

Dr Wei: “We did some experiments around this and for each motor and prop, the maximum lift achieved was approximately 80g, therefore an OnagoFly with all four motors running can produce 320g of lift in total. However the weight of the OnagoFly 1.0 is 135g and therefore the difference 185g. However remember that for the OnagoFly to ascend and fly efficiently, the overall weight must not be close to matching or exceeding the overall lift capacity.”

D-On: What is the involvement of the ‘Acumen Robot Intelligence Inc’ company based in the USA? Communication with OnagoFly seems to only be China based and backers are curious as to why the USA office are not playing any communication or customer support role in this campaign?

Dr Wei: “Two points, one is that the USA office is for research and development, we believe that California is the best place to run our creative design side of the business. The second is that we have to do marketing and we feel that our customers are mainly USA based and so it made sense for our marketing department to be based there.”

Zoe: “We have provided the correct address and telephone number for the USA office to customers. Some backers have already returned their faulty first generation v1.0 OnagoFly’s successfully, so we will check with other backers. To prove that the office exists, here are some photos!”

OnagoFly USA Offices
OnagoFly USA Offices

D-On: For backers outside of the USA, based in Europe and possibly elsewhere, a duty/tax will be charged by the courier in order for their parcels to be delivered which equates to approximately £30 (38 EUR), have you notified customers of this?

Zoe: “We were not aware of this as such duty does not apply when shipping internally in Asia, but we will now communicate this to all customers that there may be a duty charge.”

D-On: And finally in this Part 1 interview, does ‘Sam Tsu’ really exist?

Zoe: “Yes of course, he is the CEO of the company, he is USA based and yes he absolutely exists!”

Dr Wei: “He always tells of his dream goal that one day soon all customers will have a great OnagoFly product.”

  • Read Part 2 of the exclusive OnagoFly interview
  • Read Part 3 of the exclusive OnagoFly interview

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