It’s come to this; flying billboards

Today, we’re more likely to measure the progress of humanity by Blade Runner rather than biblical omens, plagues, locusts, etc. Even though we have plenty of that going on as well. By the Blade Runner scale, we’re hurtling towards the abyss.

Japanese communications giant, NTT Docomo showed off a wealth of technology at the International Broadcasters Convention. It always does. We saw amazing 8K screen it seemed you could walk into.

But, NTT put its flying drone-based billboard front and center at IBC’s Future Zone and the bright spinning blue orb stopped people dead in their tracks.  The system is built on a spherical frame which houses the drone. Mounted inside the frame are eight curved LED strips mounted from top to bottom. As the drone flies, the LED frame spins rapidly to produce an image thanks to the persistence of vision.

According to NTT Docomo, the drone is highly maneuverable and can be operated anywhere including concert halls and arenas. The image is a very clear video blue and white.

The company says it was difficult to build a machine that was light and aerodynamic. The challenge was creating a display that did not interfere with the airflow of the drone’s propellers. The solution was the use of the separate panels to allow air flow. The after-image effect created by the panels as they spin really does look like a solid display. (Though it’s difficult to photograph.)

Taking a picture of the drone reveals the spinning LED strips so you can see the drone inside and the panels. (Source: JPR)

The diameter of the frame is 88 cm and the entire device, including the drone, weighs 3.4 kg. The display’s horizontal circumference is 136 pixels wide, and the vertical is 144 pixels high. The display resolution is 760 × 320.

The company says it will commercialize the drone in 2019 and it will be first targeting messaging for events in stadiums and concert halls.


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