Flying Soccer Ball UAV

Like a lot of people, I’ve been thinking about human interactions with UAVs quite a bit these days.

Like most normal humans, I’m not especially attracted to buzzing quad copters that look and sound like demented blenders—demented flying blenders. The fact that they are computer controlled and possibly equipped with spy cams (or worse) doesn’t increase their appeal.

So I’ve been thinking about better designs.

Obviously, one can go totally biometric, and do a bird or a bat instead of a quad copter.

But copters are here to stay, so let’s fix them.

One thing that can be done is to put a cover on the darn thing! I know it’s added weight and likely a performance hit, but give us a break. I don’t really want to see copters flying near me. And, by the way, exposed rotors aren’t safe or friendly.

My musings have been reinforced and validated by recent developments.

For example, Bitdrones have a nice appearance, and are touchable. Kind of a paper lantern look and feel.

This week I learned of another idea on these lines, a kickstarter from Belgium for Fleye, “your personal flying robot”. It has the features and behavior of the basic quad copter, with a “soccer ball” look and feel.

The plastic shell certainly changes the visual appearance from “demented blender” to “cartoony droid”. This is so much better!

The shell also makes the drone easy to touch and, as the video suggests, push away, the annoying snoop droid. This is a really good feature.  A very, very good feature.

Judging from the video, Fleye seems to eschew speed and sharp maneuvers in favor of calm, moderate hovering. Perhaps the weight and constraint of the shell makes this inevitable, but I think it also makes the device “friendlier”. This idea is in line with current research.

I’m not sure how much the casing helps the sound, but it’s a start, no?

I’m not a fan of the spy cam payload. I still see no socially positive use for these devices. And I still don’t look forward to having dozens of these guys pestering me everywhere I go.  A dozen soccer balls bumping into each other will be comical for about a minute, and then it will be very irritating.

But at least Fleye shows us something that’s a bit more human friendly. It’s a start.

I will return to the point about touching the drone in the future,  This is really, really critical.


Robot Wednesday

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