While a drone that sings in the rain has yet to be invented, one that can follow you around and keep you dry in the rain, has!
The ‘Umbrella Drone’ is in its’ simplest terms, a drone with an umbrella attached to it, but of course it’s a little more complicated than that. Invented by a graduate engineer student, it uses cutting edge technology to follow you around and hover over your head to keep you dry in the rain.
How does the umbrella drone work?
Described by sellers of the product as being ideal for walking the dog, watching an outdoor sporting event or riding a bike, the drone uses hands-free technology to automatically follow you around with the help of your smartphones GPS.
How difficult was it to design a functioning umbrella drone?
Pretty tricky is a bit of an understatement! The initial project faced a lot of problems and setbacks, and things were clearly not going to be easy for the designers.
Likening the end design to a jellyfish, its creator wanted to the drone to float through the air, drifting instead of stuttering, but as umbrellas are not very aerodynamic, this was going to be easier said than done. He firstly tried attaching an umbrella to a commercial drone, but it was soon clear that this was not going to work. Since most commercial drones have a concentrated mass in the centre, it meant that the shaft of the umbrella had nowhere to be attached to. Putting it in a position anywhere off the centre of the drone, simply served to unbalance things and make
the drone unflyable. So, it was back to the drawing board to create a drone specifically designed for the purpose.
The drone had not only to make compensations for the weight of the umbrella attached to it, but for the aerodynamic drag and the disrupted free airstream to the drone’s propellers. While aeroplanes are designed to be highly aerodynamic, drones are not, and the design ended up shifting its focus to that of the umbrella.
Eventually, maintaining a flight path was possible but enabling the drone to take off, was proving much more difficult. In response, the umbrella drone designer created a special platform that the drone could be launched from and land on, much more precisely.
After a period of 3 months, the umbrella drone functioned well indoors, but was not yet sturdy or accurate enough to cope with the outside world and its challenges and did not resemble a jellyfish as the inventor had envisaged, at all. However, it was soon discovered that when the propellers hit a certain speed, the rotors changed the pressure of the air above and below the umbrella, causing the umbrella to ever so slightly open and close, in a similar way to a jellyfish in the water. They had finally cracked it!
What other setbacks did the umbrella drone face?
Drones are highly regulated, and in some countries their laws surrounding the flying of drones are complex and make it hard for new inventions such as the umbrella drone to be flown without the risk of incurring fines from the FAA.
Fortunately, in a recent press release the FAA have made their rules and regulations somewhat clearer regarding the operating of UAV’s and provided the umbrella drone remains within the sight line of the individual using it, obeys a 400 feet ceiling and 100 mph speed limit, with a 55 pound weight restriction, it can be flown without risk of violating any laws.
With drones becoming ever more affordable and ever more creative, the rain filled sky really is the limit!