Multicopter drones are useful, but their constantly spinning blades are loud, energy-intensive, and possibly dangerous. Balloons could be a decent alternative to other drones for at least a few tasks, like as shooting video and looking great, and now NTT Docomo, a Japanese business, has debuted bouncing blimp-like drones that move around using an ultrasonic propulsion system.
All those spinning blades are a rising menace to people, animals, objects, and other drones as more and more drones clutter the airspace. Many use sophisticated obstacle avoidance algorithms and sensors, while others encase drones in crash cages or design them to become limp when they collide.
Docomo proposes a significantly more straightforward solution: do away with blades entirely. The new drone is just a helium-filled balloon that will bounce off someone’s head in a hilarious manner. If the drone is supposed to be the star of the show, it has a camera installed on the bottom that allows it to take images and movies. If the drone is designed to be the hero of the show, it has a camera mounted on the bottom that is packed with colourful LEDs. However, compared to the company’s earlier flying spherical LED display, it appears to be a more modest light show.
Docomo’s blimp drone also has a few more benefits. It’s much quieter, so videos won’t be ruined by the name’s droning sound. Flight periods should be considerably increased because there is no need to waste energy battling gravity with spinning blades. However, Docomo makes no mention of how long that might take.
But perhaps the most intriguing thing about it is the ultrasonic propulsion system. On either side of the balloon are two small ultrasound modules that produce tiny vibrations to disturb the air and push the balloon left, right, forward, backward, up or down as needed.
Balloon drones have been developed and used before, but some still use propellers, while others are kite/balloon hybrids designed for outdoor, higher altitude use. Docomo says the new balloon drone would be ideal for use at events or commercial facilities, indoors or outdoors – although we imagine it would have to be a very still day.