Thu, Jun 07, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Drone designed to provide hands-free shade from the sun

AFP, TOKYO

It is the hands-free experience you never knew you needed — a Japanese company has developed a drone-powered parasol it has said can hover over users, protecting them from the sun.

The drone-powered sunshade — being developed by Asahi Power Service — should be released next year and would initially target those in need of a hands-free head covering wider than your average hat, like golfers.

The potential headaches posed by crashes and regulations governing autonomous aircraft mean the company expects the product would initially be used in closed private spaces, like golf courses.

“I decided to develop it as I don’t like to hold an umbrella,” Asahi Power Service president Kenji Suzuki told reporters.

At 1.5m wide, the parasol prototype weighs 5kg and so far can only fly for five minutes on one charge.

The company is hoping to quickly extend flying time to at least 20 minutes, partly by making the device lighter, Suzuki said.

“The first prototype we made was just a drone attached to a regular umbrella,” Suzuki said. “We are now testing the third-generation prototype and trying to overcome [the technological challenges of] hovering in a stable manner above the head of the user and then chasing the user.”

The drones are fitted with cameras that help the parasols track their owners and stay over the correct head.

The firm said it expects the device to have a price tag of about ¥30,000 (US$273), a hefty sum for a parasol that is not yet able to protect its users from the rain.

For now, the devices are not waterproof.

“Eventually, we aim to develop it into an umbrella,” Suzuki said.

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