Japanese telecommunications giant Docomo has developed the world’s first spherical drone that displays LED images on an omnidirectional spherical screen while in flight.
The concept was first shown to the public back in April, which was right around the time we were covering NAB, so it sort of flew under the radar! Docomo is working hard to get it ready for full commercialisation next year.
The concept comprises of a spherical external frame, an internal LED frame consisting of a series of eight curved LED strips that extend from top to bottom, a drone fitted inside the sphere and legs protruding underneath. During flight, the LED frame spins on its axis in a rapid horizontal motion, forming an afterimage effect to create the illusion of a solid sphere of motionless LEDs. The 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, event information or just about anything else you can think of. I’m sure someone will incorporate one of these into music video as soon as they become available.
This concept got me thinking that a spherical drone could also be used as a mobile aerial lighting platform in areas where you couldn’t place conventional lighting. The downside to this would obviously be the noise and limited flight time.
The maximum diameter of the spherical frame is about 88 cm and the entire device, including the drone, weighs just 3.4 kg. The display measures 144 pixels high and 136 pixels wide (horizontal circumference).
Equipping a drone with a spherical display proved to be quite a challenging task for Docomo. They had to figure out how to overcome problems such as the display interfering with the airflow of the drone’s propellers as well as the added weight of the display. Docomo’s solution uses a largely hollow display that is lightweight and allows air to flow through it, yet it still achieves the illusion of a solid display by creating an afterimage effect with rapidly spinning LEDs.
Docomo aims to commercialize its spherical drone display by March 2019. Going forward, the company will explore potential entertainment and messaging solutions for event venues, including stadiums and concert halls.
This is certainly an interesting concept where two different forms of technology have been integrated into one solution that no one has done before.