People mostly think of consumer-marketed drones as gadgets used to take aerial photos or provide their owners with enjoyment as they zoom around backyards. However, a Japanese company called Asahi Power Source is working on perfecting a product called Free Parasol. It’s a drone with an umbrella that keeps people shaded when they’re outdoors.
It Has a Camera and AI Technology
The question on many curious individuals’ minds is how the gadget in progress would be able to detect a person’s head from, say, a short bush or a statue. Reports say the drone umbrella will have a camera and artificial intelligence technology that helps the gadget pick out its owner’s head from surrounding things in the environment.
It’s Not the First Umbrella Drone
Asahi Power Service is not the only company that’s attempted to make a drone that works as an umbrella. DronesDirect was working on a modified version of a DJI Phantom 4 drone with a yellow umbrella on top intended for customers in the United Kingdom. However, it had a price tag of an incredible £1,299, which is the equivalent of about $1,730. That retail value put it out of reach of most consumers.
Also, an inquisitive reporter contacted the retail company around the time when the so-named Umbrella Drone hit the news and heard it was still a work in progress and not officially for sale at that time.
Whereas the Asahi Power Source concept uses artificial intelligence to follow users and detect their positions, the DronesDirect model used a GPS signal to harness location-based tracking capabilities. Moreover, the Umbrella Drone features collision avoidance technology to prevent the gadget from slamming into something solid. It’s also built to tolerate harsh winds.
The Free Parasol’s Limitations
Like most products that are in the works, the Free Parasol needs improvements before it’s ready for the public. There’s one major difference between the Free Parasol and the Umbrella: The former isn’t suitable for wet conditions, and therefore, only offers sun protection instead of shelter from the rain.
However, the engineers at Asahi Power Service might eventually address that shortcoming when they work out some of the product’s other kinks. If they don’t, the company could theoretically market it to golfers.
Due to drone regulations in most countries that don’t allow the vehicles to fly too low to the ground, people could only use the Free Parasol on private land where owners set their own rules.
Besides the lack of rainproof materials, the drone only has a maximum flying time of 20 minutes, although there are plans to increase that amount to an hour.
Plus, video footage of the Free Parasol prototype indicates it’s quite loud. Its developers need to work on making it quieter so it’s more suitable to modern lifestyles. Otherwise, people probably won’t be able to talk on the phone, have conversations with those standing next to them or do anything that requires concentration — like playing golf.
Weight is another issue concerning this umbrella. The prototype versions weigh around 11 pounds, but designers want to make adjustments so it eventually only weighs about 2 pounds when — or if — it hits the market.
It’s good that engineers are aware of why the Free Parasol isn’t yet practical enough for widespread use. However, it’s also worth pointing out that the team responsible for this drone umbrella wants to start selling it next year. Since there are so many differences between the existing version and the ideal, that could be a hard goal to achieve.
There are more details about the prototype on the manufacturer’s website. Bear in mind, though, it’s all in Japanese, and Google Translate didn’t work for converting the language after a few attempts.
More Budget Friendly
Compared to the first attempt at an umbrella drone — which is not listed at the distributor’s site — the Free Parasol is comparatively much less expensive. It’ll reportedly sell for approximately $275. That’s still pricey for an umbrella, though. It’s arguably not worth the money unless the issues mentioned above get fixed.
On a positive note, it’s refreshing that creative companies are looking for unconventional ways to use drones. Those efforts may mean drones become more commonplace in society in unusual but interesting ways.
Image: Youtube/Nikkan Kogyo Video News