One day, you might take a bike ride with a couple of drones to protect you from nearby cars.

Another friendly drone concept, called Firestorm, could locate trapped people in burning buildings without putting firefighters at risk.

The Hummingbird and Beetle could autonomously farm in fertile, but remote environments.

The design is one of several concepts from a team at frog design that wanted to rework the current evil image of the drone, like this one that could drop explosives to strategically trigger avalanches, the Snow Cyclops could help keep skiers safe.

2014-01-24

Co.Exist

For Your Next Bike Ride, Bring Along This Friendly Drone

The Cyclodrone will fly in front of and behind cyclists to warn them of upcoming danger and help alert drivers. Maybe a drone-filled future isn't so bad after all.

Someday in the not-too-distant future, you might take a bike ride with a couple of drones—one flying in front, one in back—to protect you from nearby cars. As you ride around tight corners, the “Cyclodrone” will shine a beacon of light to warn drivers that you’re there, hosting a tiny camera to record any accidents.

The design is one of several concepts from a team at frog design that wanted to rework the current evil image of the drone. “Drones are taking a beating in the press, being characterized as spies and assassins,” says Cormac Eubanks, who developed the Cyclodrone. “At frog, we are more fascinated by the design potential at the leading edge of technology. We believe now is the time to explore how drones could be a force for good.”

Along with the Cyclodrone, the designers suggested that drones could be used to help firefighters find victims in burning buildings (and even automatically lead those victims to safety). Another variation could help find victims in avalanches or deliver rescue packages to lost hikers. A final design could help farm remote, difficult-to reach areas, doing everything from scouting out locations to fertilizing the soil and harvesting crops.

It might take a little while before all of the ideas could actually be produced. “Some of the ideas are workable today, while others are a little more visionary and will require advances in battery, sensor, and materials technology to be feasible,” Eubanks says.

The Cyclodrone could be made today, but would be tricky for longer rides, since the battery would need frequent recharging. The designers considered the possibility of using a generator on the rear sprocket of the bike to keep the battery charged.

In its current form, it also might not be as convenient for a simple ride around town, since you would need to pre-program your route into the device so the drone in front knows where to go. The drone in back, however, could follow the bike by using the GPS in the cyclist’s phone as a guide.

Why not just use stronger lights attached to the bike itself? “Lights work great at night, but during the day they need to be unbelievably bright to be visible in sunlight. During the day, our visual systems are more sensitive to moving physical objects,” Eubanks explains. On a blind curve, the milliseconds of extra warning that the drones provide might be enough to save a life.

As drone designs rapidly evolve, Eubanks predicts that it won’t be long before more positive drones are on the market. Already, drones are being used to protect endangered wildlife.

The public image of the drone might take a little longer to catch up. “Here’s an analogy: When the automobile first appeared people were wary of the technology and not sure how it would integrate into a world that had evolved without it,” he says. “It took decades before it became fully ingrained in our social fabric. Drones will probably need a similar acclimation period.”

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3 Comments

  • Skippy Mc Carthy

    Can you imagine the reaction of following drivers , to the " Drone " hovering /flying " with a flashing RED Light ? Depending on how far back the Drone is , would it confuse/bemuse that driver ?

    Could see it working for a Squad of Cyclists , rather than for the individual ? Drivers will continue to be distracted by Texting & other " Essential Multi Tasking activity , regardless of what precautions a Cyclist takes ! When you read this :

    http://beyondthekerb.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/from-out-of-nowhere/?utm_content=bufferbe5e8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    you will see that even in GOOD Light , wearing reflective gear andd lit up like a CHRISTMAS Tree , a Cyclist is INVISIBLE to a Driver that wears a " HALO "!

    UNTIL the Judiciary start thinking that 100% attention is REQUIRED whilst Driving , Cyclists will continue to be Victims of " Oops moments " and the driver being "BLAMELESS" !

  • Patrick Dean

    Um - environment-destroying, sprawl-enabling, obesity-causing cars might not be the best choice for comparison if we're trying to be positive about drones.

  • i imagine also possible uses for drones in the wildlife, they best would be around 10 cm in diameter.... with an advanced object recognition software, a high res cam and data about all kind of plants... the human wildlife friend could send them out on exploring trip in this or that direction ... when they come back, they transmit their findings via bluetooth to the mobile phone and the traveler can decide in which direction to continue the hike in search for this or that plant ... this would eventually help the environment as less ground would be trodden on. an other avenue would be to attach scissors and a net to the tiny drone ... so the flying buddy would be able to pick some berries and leaves on its own .... i have had the idea of the swiss alps being populated by wild cannabis plants. drones could harvest seeds, leaves and flower buds ( the plants being initially brought into the area in an rewilding effort via dropping seedballs from a helicopter as masanobu fukuoaka teached )