Innovation

Why the next billboard is a flying drone

A new, spherical, LED-displaying drone can show advertising from the sky. Here's what it could mean for the future of advertising.

Advertising seems to have made its way into every place you look—from magazines, to TV screens, to Hulu streams, to Facebook feeds. Now, advertising may have found a new place to reach you: The sky.

Japanese mobile phone operator NTT Docomo recently unveiled what it calls the world's first spherical drone display, created as part of the Docomo Drone Project. It's lightweight at 7.5 pounds, and is 88 cm in diameter with a 144 x 136-pixel screen.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has an easy-to-move frame and internal LED structure—that includes eight curved LED strips that extend from top to bottom of the sphere—work together to project a solid visual display, without impacting the drone's propellers. Creating a display that would prevent interference with the drone's airflow was a challenge, the company said.

The drone spins 360 degrees on its axis, but the display appears solid. The spherical UAV also has "legs" that enable it to take off and land safely.

NTT Docomo said it intends for the drone to be used at large arenas, such as concerts or sporting events, and that its design ensures that ads can be viewed from every angle. And, not only could advertisers use the drone, the venues themselves could take advantage of the device by projecting their own messages and information through its displays.

The company says it will put the drone on the market by March 2019, but will offer a demo of the device at NTT Ultra Future Museum 2017 in Chiba City, Japan on April 29.

This is not the only potential use of this type of drone. As ZDNet reported, Dubai officials recently disclosed plans for a flying autonomous drone taxi service, which could "help lessen congestion and will be suitable for short trips."

SEE: Drone policy template (Tech Pro Research)

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. NTT Docomo, a Japanese telecommunications company, has just unveiled what it calls the world's first flying spherical drone, which has LED displays that can be used to project images.

2. The UAV is intended to display ads as well as other information at large arenas, for concerts or sporting events, where the image can be seen from every angle.

3. Advertisers, as well as venues, can take advantage of the system by targeting their ads with the easy-to-move drone. The drone is expected to be commercialized by March 2019.

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About Hope Reese

Hope Reese is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the intersection of technology and society, examining the people and ideas that transform how we live today.

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