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Drone parasols (sunshades) that you can rent via an app

Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/aerial-view-photography-of-umbrellas-on-shore-1710795/

jnikola Jul 20, 2022
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When you imagine a beach, you always see a lot of stone or sand, sea and tons of parasols/sunshades, right? What if you could control it better?
Solar-powered drone parasols (sunshades) that can be controlled by the user.

  • Traditional parasols are bulky, usually fixed to the deck chair and not easy to move. Sometimes we want to move it a bit because the sun is still reaching us, but we cannot do it in a simple, automated way.
  • Parasols cannot change their colour unless you buy a new one or invest a lot of money in new fabric.
  • Traditional parasols completely block sunlight.
  • Parasols are always of the same colour as you bought them.
How would it work?
Drone parasols would be made of light fabric and aluminium and battery powered. Every once in a while, parasol would be replaced by the one with full battery, while the empty one would go onto the solar-powered charging station (like the one described in Darko Savic's session). Solar-energy wouldn't be a problems since most of the beaches have a lot of sun. When there is no sun, there is usually not a lot of people on the beach, too.
The batteries could also be pre-charged and replaced on-site by the service provider. That way there is no need to install small solar power plant to charge the drones. Also, charged batteries could easily be delivered to the beach where a lot of drones are operating that day.
  • Position and stability
Like modern drones, these parasols would be automatically or manually controlled and stabile even in the strong wind. They would automatically get out of the storage when a person requests it or get back when a person leaves the beach. That way there would be no hundreds of parasols on every beach and that one guy that needs to put all of them on the position every morning (or take off the chain) --> plain and beautiful beaches. They would follow the sunshade they create and automatically locate themselves to give you the best possible protection. Since there would be many drones on the beach, they would also be able to detect and keep distance from the neighbouring parasol drone. If the drone is not giving you the optimal tanning conditions, you could manually change its position by using mobile app.
  • Transparency and colour
You could also control the transparency of the parasol to let a certain amount of sunlight in, but still, protect you from the damaging UV rays. That way you could enjoy medium shade or no shade at all, while still being protected from the UV-C. The drone fabric could be made from technologically-advanced materials that enable you to change colour of the parasol. That way your parasol could match your bikini or a beach towel and you could find it more easily when you get out of the sea.
  • Additional features
Parasol could keep your stuff safe when you go to swim by landing and covering your stuff. If it was lifted in "protection" mode, the alarm would sound and the guards would appear. When you come back, the parasol would again lift off by sensing your bracelet with proximity sensor/bluetooth.
  • Fees
If the drone parasols are the property of the hotel or a beach bar, then the usage would be included in the price of your stay or deducted from your card at the end. If, on the other hand, the service givers install drone parasol station to rent them to everyone on the public beach, than you would be asked to download the app, connect the card, top up and only then you would be able to use the drone parasols. You would be charged per minute rate of (0.08 USD per minute, approx. 5 USD an hour, 40 USD for 8-hour protection).
Feasilility? The concept is already out there, also in shape of an umbrella. It just needs to be modifiedmatch our needs. :)
Main problems? Noise and safety.
What do you think? Would you like to order parasol drone on your next beach visit?
Creative contributions

Inflatable parasol attaching to the ground with a string

Michaela D
Michaela D Jul 20, 2022
I liked the idea of a floating parasol. A simple alternative to the drone parasol is an inflatable one. It does not make noise, it is lightweight, compact and only expands when inflated. It is attached to a string that ends in a bag to be filled with sand or pebbles to keep the parasol in place. More strings with bags can also be attached for further stability. Downside: to keep it floating it needs to be a very light material that may not be durable.

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jnikola2 years ago
I like the idea and it seems feasible. However, this way you still have a connection with the ground, low controllability and no feature modification. But I like how simple it is. Maybe a downside is using a lot of helium or some other gas lighter than air. Helium is known to evaporate even though the balloon's rubber. The effect could be stronger at high temperatures, increasing the helium consumption. Also, how would you deal with the light wind which would, since you have an ultralight material, affect the parasol's position significantly?
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Michaela D
Michaela D2 years ago
J. Nikola I guess there would have to be an easy way to refill it with helium on the spot- maybe a small helium tank? Otherwise, they would need to be cheap enough and recyclable so that you could use a new parasol after some time (but the strings and bags would stay the same). For the positioning you are also right; in its simplest format it would not be very stable, this is why it would come with extra strings on the sides that would help keep it in place.
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An alternative - smart grounded parasols

Povilas S
Povilas S Jul 22, 2022
Why not equip the grounded parasols with the beneficial features you propose for drone parasols?
Ground parasols could also be mechanized to follow the sun and provide you with the best possible shade. If drone parasols can be designed to regulate the transparency of the umbrella material to let a certain amount of sunshine in, grounded parasols can be designed just the same way, the same with changing colour.
The main issue with drone parasols, as you stated yourself, is the noise. Especially when there would be a lot of drones floating around on the beach, people underneath might feel like sleeping in a bee hive.
Regarding the stability/wind resistance - drone parasols might be more stable than some of the grounded parasols, but not necessarily, if the wind is rather strong, the drone would need strong propellers and a lot of power to stay in place. Making the pole of the grounded parasol strong and adding some supporting elements would likely do way better in resisting wind than the lightweight drone.
I like the idea of a drone parasol covering your stuff while you go take a swim. But this can also be achieved with an automated grounded parasol, all you need is a telescopic pole that retracts and spreads like an umbrella handle automatically when the system senses you disappearing or coming back.
The main disadvantage of smart grounded parasols over drone parasols is that they'd be heavier and would take more time to be set in places and taken away.
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jnikola2 years ago
The reason why I didn't go with all these features on grounded parasols is that my primary idea was to have a parasol that doesn't limit your movement beneath it. With the shading, colour changing and safety features, I came up a bit later.
I agree with all your comments. The noise and the battery could be solved by technological advancements soon in the future. The rest already exists. However, as a good transitional phase towards "smart parasols", it would be logical to implement these features into grounded parasols first. It could also point out the flaws and make the experimental phase much cheaper since no drone battery charging would be required.
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Povilas S
Povilas S2 years ago
Another issue with the drone parasols is that the drones would require a lot of energy (frequent recharging) to stay floating in the air for hours.
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jnikola2 years ago
Povilas S This link is very cool.
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Helium-filled construction elements to save energy during flight

jnikola Jul 20, 2022
It would be nice if we could somehow make the whole construction less heavy to save energy during flight. One way of doing it is to fill the 2-layered fabric/nylon with helium. Another one could be a helium-filled compartment beneath the parasol fabric that acts as a "lifter" and reduces the amount of energy spent by the battery-powered motors to keep the parasol in the air.
What do you think? Do you have any other ideas on how to make it lightweight?
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Prolonging the "floating time" of drone parasols with a sun-harvesting fabric-like material

jnikola Jul 23, 2022
This idea was inspired by Povilas S's comment. I read that drone's air time can be prolonged by installing solar panels on it. Although very big (24 meters wingspan), the solar-powered Zephyr S drone (Airbus) spent 25 days, 23hr and 57 min in the air, without landing to recharge.
I would propose two experimental designs of drone parasols:
  • drones that carry a parasol-shaped solar panel that can serve as a shade (foto1, foto2)
  • drones that carry a parasol made of smart sun-harvesting "fabric" (link1, video1)
  • drones that create shade by specially-designed propellers spinning (questionable)
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