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Panasonic’s puffy Ballooncam is a drone safe enough to soar above crowds

While the Ballooncam may more closely resemble the Super Mario character Lakitu, the drone prototype from Panasonic actually houses some pretty impressive technology. By wrapping a drone up in what’s essentially a balloon, the drone not only becomes safer to fly but also more efficient, and even packs in some unusual display features.

Ballooncam, designed for recording sports contests and other events, is completely housed inside the balloon, enhancing safety in the event of a crash in a crowded venue. A four-propeller quadcopter is wrapped up inside, along with a camera at the bottom of the balloon. Panasonic says the Ballooncam’s enhanced safety features could potentially allow it to fly above the audience for dynamic aerial footage.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

But besides enhancing safety, the balloon actually makes the drone more buoyant, saving energy. That’s one rather original solution for one of the biggest challenges to developing drone technology that is capable of flying long enough to accomplish tasks like drone delivery or recording an entire event without using multiple quadcopters. The Ballooncam also uses a thrust-force propeller to enhance both stability and mobility. Panasonic says the camera will also be able to fly in sync with performances.

Introduced at the Panasonic booth at Content Tokyo earlier this summer, the balloon is just as much a staging device as it is a camera drone. With a projector and LEDs built inside, the Ballooncam can display messages, images or the quirky smiley face shown off in the product’s first public introduction.

While the concept may seem strange at first, watching it in action makes it a bit easier to imagine the Ballooncam being used to both record sporting events and project information to an audience.

At present, the Ballooncam is just a prototype. Panasonic says it will further develop the balloon-drone hybrid by testing different shapes and developing better controls.

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