Class Claims Hobby Drones Don’t Deliver

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A camera-equipped hobby drone called the Onagofly F115 is so poorly made it’s “nothing more than a spruced-up paperweight,” buyers claim in a federal class action alleging fraud and false advertising.

Allan Black and three other named plaintiffs say Shenzen Sunshine Technology Development, of Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, and Acumen Robot Intelligence of Brea, California “have perpetrated a scam upon the fast-growing drone-buying community by duping consumers into purchasing Onagofly F115s” because the little quadcopters “lack various specifications as advertised.”

The final defendant is Sam Tsu, of Beverly Hills, dba Onagofly.

The market for drones is expanding quickly. PricewaterhouseCoopers reported in May 2016 that the market for commercial drones could reach $127 billion by 2020, up from just $2 billion.

The market for much smaller hobby drones is also growing, and growing crowded — but not without some failures. The British company that makes the palm-sized Zano drone lost £2 million and went into voluntary liquidation in November.

Based on allegations in the new class action, Onagofly could be next.

Black claims that the Onagofly drone is unstable in the air and “fails to orient itself or follow the user as promised” in advertising because its GPS application is flawed.

The battery and the camera are significantly underpowered compared to the company’s advertising claims, “and the propellers are of poor quality and break easily,” according to the 32-page complaint.

Nor is the camera on the drone a 15 megapixel Sony, as advertised, Black says. “Instead, the camera in the drone is of a significantly lower resolution than promised. In fact, the video that Onagofly touts on its website http://www.onagofly.com as having been shot with an Onagofly drone was in fact not filmed by an Onagofly drone, and instead was filmed by a different drone equipped with a higher resolution camera than the Onagofly drone,” according to the complaint.

Nor does the company respond to customer complaints: “In fact, defendants’ customer service department is nonexistent, such that it is completely unresponsive to the hundreds if not thousands of customer complaints regarding the Onagofly drone,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit claims that Acumen and Onagofly are Tsu’s alter egos.

“Mr. Tsu personally directed and participated in the fraudulent activity described in this complaint, knowingly using a set of revolving corporations (of which he was the principal shareholder) to carry out his willful and deliberate fraudulent activity with one purpose in mind: avoiding personal liability,” the complaint states.

The public information office of Onagofly did not respond to an email inquiry. A person who answered the phone at Onagofly’s Brea headquarters said he was not authorized to talk.

The plaintiffs, from California, Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota, are represented by Kenneth Grunfeld with Golomb & Honik in Philadelphia and Kirk Wolden with Carter Wolden Curtis in Sacramento.

Wolden referred questions to Grunfeld, who could not be reached Tuesday afternoon.

Onagofly makes “micro” or “nano” drones, about 5 inches square, that are controlled by a user’s smartphone, turning and rolling as the user moves the phone.

The company appears to have put out a number of versions of its drones over the past few years. The F115 is no longer listed on the company website nor on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, where it markets its products.

All four named plaintiffs paid for their drones “by making a ‘contribution’ payment through the www.indiegogo.com website, but the purchase was made from the defendants for the plaintiff to receive an Onagofly F115 drone as promised by the defendants,” the lawsuit states. Two paid $199 and two paid $259.

Onagofly had raised $3.5 million through crowdfunding as of February 2016, according to its Indiegogo page.

Named plaintiffs Robert Matos Rivera and Roger Watts say they never received the drones they ordered, despite waiting, and complaining, for months.

Black and Christopher Jones say they did receive their F115s., but Jones’s drone “was unable to perform the basic function of flying at consistent speeds,” and “the video capabilities of the drone were grossly misrepresented.”

Black says his drone lacked the promised GPS lock and obstacle-avoidance feature, so that “the drone frequently flies away and crashes.”

They seek class certification, restitution and punitive damages for breach of contract, fraud, unfair competition, misrepresentation and violations of California, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota laws.

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