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$275 drone umbrella set to take flight in 2019

by Drew Johnson

Hands-free sun relief is now a reality.

Drones currently have a wide array of uses — from aerial photography to package delivery — but one Japanese company has come up with a clever new purpose for the autonomous flying machine.

Asahi Power Service has developed a drone-powered umbrella that's intended to keep the sun off users. The device is intended for those that need a little extra hands-free shade, such as golfers.

"I decided to develop it as I don't like to hold an umbrella," company president Kenji Suzuki told AFP.

Though still just a prototype, Asahi Power Service hopes to launch the device next year. Given the restrictions currently surrounding drone use, the company expects it to be initially used in private spaces like golf courses.

The flying parasol is about 60 inches wide and weighs in at a relatively portly 11 pounds. As a result of that heft, the drone can only fly for about 5 minutes per charge. However, the company is working on a lighter version that should increase flying time to at least 20 minutes.

"The first prototype we made was just a drone attached to a regular umbrella," Suzuki said.

The drone relies on cameras to keep the parasol over the head of the correct user. Although not mentioned, the device presumably has a way to detect where to position itself for optimal shade.

Despite being a flying umbrella, the device isn't waterproof, so you can't use it for rain. However, the company says it is working on a waterproof version of the device. The flying parasol is expected to list for about $275.