Brooklyn startup Spacial is taking an old-school approach to UAV technology. Instead of jumping on board the multi-rotor bandwagon, the company has launched a serene balloon called Halo.
So far Spacial’s Halo blimp has been designed for indoor flight. And it’s easy to see why the company is pitching it as an indoor-friendly drone. Halo is capable of carrying sophisticated camera equipment but solves many of the problems associated with rotored UAVs.
For starters, it’s quiet, slow and steady. Regular drones tend to sound like a cross between a giant mosquito and a small helicopter. With the Halo there’s barely any noise, which makes it ideal for indoor venues, particularly when you want to film an event from above without disrupting it.
Although multi-rotor drones have recently been found to be relatively safe when flying over crowds, there’s definitely still a perception that one wrong move could leave someone below seriously injured. On the one hand, Halo’s serene amble means there’s virtually no risk of the pilot losing control. On the other, a lighter craft with a greater surface area has much less potential to cause harm should it fall out of the sky.
But looks can be deceiving in terms of speed. Speaking to DroneLife, Spacial co-founder Alex Chatham said that Halo’s top speed is currently 10mph and will soon be upped to 20mph. So it’s no slouch and could still offer the kind of shot variety we see from multi-rotor drones.
Another key advantage the Halo drone has over multi-rotor systems is flight time. Your average professional drone can currently fly for roughly half an hour, meaning pilots often need to land and change batteries during the course of filming an event. Spacial’s Halo will be able to stay airborne for up to three hours at a time – easily enough time to cover the entirety of most shoots.
The biggest selling point of Spacial’s technology is probably its likability factor. While the company will still have to gain permission from aviation authorities to fly near or over crowds of people, on the face of it this offering is a lot more human-friendly. Consumer drones are fast developing a reputation for being the menacing voyeurs of the skies. Halo doesn’t come across the same way. Chatham has referred to the concept as a robot cloud; what’s intimidating about that?
At the moment, Chatham said, Spacial is designing for indoor scenarios. But the team is also testing outdoor versions and potential applications.