Intel patent suggests drones may be used to create mobile billboards in the near future

nanoguy

Posts: 1,217   +21
Staff member
Forward-looking: Drone light shows aren't something new, but drone-based digital signage could evolve in many ways. As suggested by a recent Intel patent, drones could be used to create mobile billboards that adapt to the environment and their audience. Not everything that gets patented makes it into an actual product or service, but this could one day be a replacement for certain forms of advertising that companies use today.

When Intel isn't busy rejuvenating its foundry business and battling AMD for the CPU performance crown, the company is exploring various technologies and how they may be used.

For instance, Intel's research arm has a fascination with drones, which can be used to replace fireworks and create interesting visual spectacles during big events.

Over the past few years, Intel has put out several dazzling light shows using drones, whether it was during its 50th anniversary or Walmart's Holiday Drone Light Show. More recently, the company used 1,000 drones to build up hype around its Arc Alchemist GPUs, but it has yet to deliver on its promise to ship millions of them to gamers around the world.

Unsurprisingly, Intel has several patents around these, but one in particular dated January 4, 2022 — US Pat. No. 11,217,126 — describes methods and systems for providing "ad hoc digital signage" for either public or private displays. The drone light shows that take minutes during events take months of arduous work on designing the choreography of the drone swarm for the animations it needs to display, finding a suitable location, and testing the deployment on-site to see if it works with an acceptable degree of accuracy.

In essence, Intel's patent describes ways to make a drone-based billboard of sorts that can be easily moved around and reconfigured on the fly to show various types of ads. The methods involve drones with projection systems and capturing data from a variety of sensors to adjust to the audience and even move along with it as necessary.

For situations where space is at a premium, drones would scan the geometry of the environment and adjust the projection size to fit a smaller area. For areas where larger projections are possible, multiple drones could work together to compose a seamless digital signage, and one would act as a helper to adjust the viewing angle of the projection and gauge the audience's interest level.

If the signage isn't drawing attention, the directing drone could change the content being displayed by the other units.

The projection surface could also be ad hoc, in that a drone swarm could split into two groups — one to roll down a canvas and one to project onto it. There are even details about a spatial audio system for video ads and ways to adjust the content to an audience's mood and general interests.

If this sounds crazy, it was only a few years ago that a Russian startup called StartRocket thought about using satellites to illuminate the night sky with ads. Still, none of this beats the weird factor of "moonvertising" — the idea of using robots to draw advertisements on the surface of the Moon.

Luckily, even Intel's relatively earthly idea of drone-based advertising exposed in the patent has yet to materialize into an actual service. As of writing, the company is offering drone light shows that cost anywhere from $99,000 to $299,000, as well as custom plans for large projects involving thousands of drones.

These drone light shows are marketed as an alternative to fireworks, as they're supposedly safer, cleaner, quieter, and more environmentally friendly.

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merikafyeah

Posts: 334   +318
If it's any solace, drones are very expensive so we won't be seeing this everywhere. Only certain locations during special events, like what China did recently:
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brucek

Posts: 1,131   +1,671
This was cool the first few times. Now we need some rules about who owns the beauty of the night sky, and I hope it's not whichever insensitive corporation wants to put the most drones in the air.

Converting public sky view into private billboard space should require a permit and come with a hefty price tag, payable to the public, more than commensurate with the peace and tranquility being destroyed.
 

SirDigby

Posts: 901   +763
TechSpot Elite
Right, but a billboard is just a big sign with a big poster, once its up, its operating costs are minimal. This is super expensive, constantly replacing parts / batteries, programming routes and routines, constantly recharging the drones and probably a dedicated person or two to maintain them.

It'd be stupid if this actually became a thing.
 

waclark

Posts: 352   +240
Right, but a billboard is just a big sign with a big poster, once its up, its operating costs are minimal. This is super expensive, constantly replacing parts / batteries, programming routes and routines, constantly recharging the drones and probably a dedicated person or two to maintain them.

It'd be stupid if this actually became a thing.
While I agree, the benefit of the flying billboard is that it's not tied to one location and given that it's all programming, you can change the ad based on location.

It certainly doesn't seem financially feasible, but you know how technology is, it tends to get cheaper over time.
 

waclark

Posts: 352   +240
I manage our 4th of July fireworks show in our little town. It's not a gigantic show but it's a good one. We looked at a drone show. It was going to cost us 4-5x what a regular fireworks show would cost. That was literally a show-stopper.
 

Aaron Fox

Posts: 153   +90
Wait until young men are given much bigger prison sentences for interfering with corporations' drones than for things like murder.

We've already seen that with corporate website defacements.

This would be a very good bit for a new Black Mirror episode.