Making sure we live in a healthy world is a collective action problem. It doesn’t really work unless everyone—or at least a significant majority of countries, industries, and consumers—starts making radical changes in behavior. If that doesn’t work, one student designer envisions a future in which we resort to personal air quality drones.
In a second stage submission to the 2014 Electrolux design competition, student designer Michal Pospiech of Poland’s Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts has outlined something called an UrbanCone, a pinecone-shaped drone that filters the air around individual people. “UrbanCone’s task is to create microclimate[s] suitable to the expectations of each individual,” he writes.
The design itself is inspired by the jellyfish, which uses wing-like structures to push itself through water. UrbanCONE also uses similar flaps, though it features air filters underneath. In his description, Pospiech adds that these filters can also come with more expressive aromas tailored to a person’s mood.
UrbanCone is a clever biomimetic design, but if it’s trying to be “green,” it misses the point. Taking the easy way out with an air-filtering drone (for those who can afford it) doesn’t even begin to address the bigger, and more pressing challenges, of cleaning up our collective airspace. And while technology can greatly speed up progress, it rarely presents a comprehensive solution to a problem that requires enormous cultural and regulatory shifts.