We’ve already witnessed Intel’s ambitious bid to excite us with its drone display at Disney Springs, and marveled at the astonishing “drone ballet” performed in the shadow of Mount Fuji. Heck, those bizarre “dancing drone umbrellas” even had us sitting up and taking notice. But NTT Docomo’s contribution to the field of drone-based entertainment is surely the most impressive effort yet.
The Japanese telecoms giant has developed what it claims is the world’s first spherical drone display that shows LED images on an omnidirectional spherical screen while in flight. If that already sounds a bit bonkers, then take a moment to check it out in the video above. You’ll be amazed.
Docomo’s machine consists of a quadcopter inside a spherical protective cage. Just inside this you’ll find the all-important LEDs mounted onto eight curved strips that extend from top to bottom on a lightweight frame.
As the drone fires up, the LED frame spins rapidly, with the lights forming an afterimage that creates the illusion of a solid sphere of light. The operator can program the onboard computer to show any image they like, for example an illustration or a message.
The company said it faced several challenges while building the machine, including how to prevent the rotating display’s air flow from interfering with the drone’s propellers, and how to keep the cage and frame as light as possible to reduce the strain on the drone.
It settled with a mainly hollow display that’s not only very light but also allows air to flow through to reduce resistance for greater efficiency.
With an eye on commercializing the technology, Docomo points out that its drone can be operated “virtually anywhere, including venues such as concert halls or arenas where it can fly around as part of a performance or deliver advertising messages [and] event information.”
Disney has been looking at the idea of sticking projectors on its drones and flying them in its parks, but we can well imagine plenty of potential customers knocking on Docomo’s door eager to learn more about the opportunities that its own very cool technology appears to present.