A helium-filled spherical drone called Skye combines the handling of a quadcopter with the safety and energy efficiency of a blimp. Matthew Stock reports.
Its makers call it a safe and friendly flying machine. Called Skye, it's a new breed of unmanned aerial vehicle that can glide around safely and interact with people. The helium-filled drone is extremely light and agile, despite being about 10 feet in diametre. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DANIEL MEIER, CO-FOUNDER OF AEROTAIN/SKYE DEVELOPER, SAYING: "This is Skye, it's a unique flying machine which is safe enough to interact with. So you can touch it in flight; as you can see it's basically filled with helium which provides most of the uplift. And then you have these motors here, and this is where the magic happens... There is a computer on board which knows exactly how it's orientated in the world, and then it give commands to the motors to actually align it to where you want it to be. And there are four motors on it which can rotate around their axis and with them you can precisely control it in any environment, basically." By making their drone interactive and safe to touch, the makers believe it could allow advertisers and brands to engage directly with the public in a way never seen before. Skye has a flight time of about 2 hours on a single charge, and is strong enough to carry on-board cameras for live streaming and aerial cinematography. It also solves the problem of ensuring crowd safety that has limited the use of traditional drones at public events. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DANIEL MEIER, CO-FOUNDER OF AEROTAIN/SKYE DEVELOPER, SAYING: "Current drones, they have a very severe limitation because of the rotating blades which are not covered; so you could harm yourself there. And there is even one bigger issue; that is if the electronics fail it will just fall down to the ground. This can't happen with Skye because helium is providing the buoyancy, so if ever something goes wrong it becomes a huge balloon and people could play with it." Skye is on display at the CeBIT 2016 technology fair in Hanover, Germany. The developers hope to convince companies that for truly unique advertising they need only look to the Skye.