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Lightweight Diadon inflatable drone can land on water, flies under FAA's radar

Why it matters to you

An inflatable drone? The concept may seem strange, but the Diadon has a number of unique features, including waterproofing and a light profile.

As DJI and GoPro create portable drones with folding arms, French start-up Airvada has a different approach: inflatable arms. The Airvada Diadon is (most likely) the worlds first inflatable drone that deflates down and folds into less than eight inches of space.

But besides deflating like a beach ball at the end of a shoot, the inflatable build of the Diadon also lends a number of other characteristics. Water isn’t an issue and the company says the drone can fly in the rain as well as surviving water landings unscathed. Airvada says the drone is ready to deploy in just 60 seconds, and post-flight, deflating, and folding the drone takes just as long.

Still laughing at the idea of a beach ball drone? The Diadon could have a serious edge in weight class, since the lightest option weighs just 0.44 pounds, which slides in under the FAA’s 0.55-pound requirement for registering a drone and for obtaining a license to fly commercially, though it’s unclear if that weight includes the HD camera the company suggests flies with the lightest drone. Despite the light weight, the drone’s battery lasts a rather average 20 minutes of flight time.

The company also offers two larger versions, the 0.88-pound MP40 and the 3.3-pound HP150, designed to carry heavier equipment such as a thermal camera or a camera with a gimbal, with the flight time increasing to 30 and 35 minutes from the larger size.

The lightweight drone includes a control tablet, a compact pump to inflate the drone and a carrying case. The pump reportedly uses CO2 cartridges for that quick inflate time. Pricing has not yet been released.

While the Diodon is probably the first of its kind, the company isn’t the first to adapt beach ball qualities to make drones more lightweight. Last year, Panasonic introduced the prototype Ballooncam, a regular drone stuffed inside an inflatable, making it safe to fly over crowds even in the event of a crash.