Is a Drone-Balloon Hybrid a Match Made in Heaven?

Panasonic Drone Balloon
Drone Balloon prototype in a sporting application.Credit: Courtesy of CNHF
Panasonic's new balloon-drone hybrid prototype will give filmmakers more options in the sky.

Panasonic is working on a balloon-drone hybrid called ballooncam. Intended mainly for live event, concert and sports coverage, it has interesting applications for narrative film as well. Filmmakers have been using balloons for a while for lighting purposes, but Panasonic hopes that combining the buoyancy of a balloon with the lift and control of a drone to create an attractive platform not just for lighting but also cameras and projectors.

Why would you consider using such a thing?

1. Spinning rotors behind a big, soft cover

If you've ever searched for "drone accidents," you already know where this is going, but this video of Enrique Iglesias slicing his hand open on a drone should be enough to remind you that drones can hurt people:

Of course, balloons can too, but it's much less likely. If you are covering any sort of event with a large crowd, it's likely you (and your insurance) will be more comfortable with cameras rigged to a balloon drone (or a wire) than to an exposed drone with its blades out for all to see.  

2. Less battery power

While you can't get the "swooping" shots you might get with a drone, if you need a static or slow moving shot, a balloon cam will likely deliver what you need with significantly less power drain, giving you longer time in air and greater flexibility.

Panasonic Drone Structure
Structure of the Drone Balloon.Credit: Courtesy of Panasonic

3. Less noise

The spinning blades of a traditional drone make a noise that can potentially ruin not only your footage on a narrative film, but also be a serious annoyance for concertgoers at a live event who are there to hear the music.  By enveloping the drone rotors in an enclosure, noise issues are minimized.

4. More controlled lighting

Light balloons as an overhead lighting tool have really taken off in the last 20 years, but are severely limited in use on any kind of windy day. By combining the benefits of a balloon with a controllable drone, an overhead light could be rigged that would sit still better in a gentle wind (though still needs to come down in strong wind), or could potentially float along above a walk and talk providing an ambient light. We've seen this done with a drone in the past, but the combination with a balloon should provide some real benefits.

With all that in mind, the two biggest drawbacks to the unit are size and speed.  If you need a tight shot to squeeze down a hallway, or you need it to race down that hallway, before shooting out over the crowd, you'll need a traditional drone.  But for a huge array of applications, especially when there is a crowd or actor underneath, this is going to be a useful tool. The ballooncam prototype is currently showcasing at expos, with no word from Panasonic yet about when it will be released to market.     

Your Comment


Anyone who has dealt with the complete pain in the ass (not to mention skyrocketing helium prices) that are involved with flying a traditional lighting balloon will no doubt agree -- this is absolutely STELLAR news, and I cannot wait for this tech to catch on. It's the perfect amalgamation of technology.

July 22, 2016 at 4:57PM

Oren Soffer
Director of Photography

WOW!! Why would he grab that drone like that? It's basically 4 spinning razor blades.

July 23, 2016 at 11:27AM, Edited July 23, 11:27AM

Dantly Wyatt
Writer, Director, Content Creator.

On one side this looks amazing and on the other side we should be careful to avoid such accidents :)

July 25, 2016 at 2:47AM

Customer of bluedart

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All these and even visited their Branches too but still I am unbable to buy this and I want to join an event so far please help me in doing this.

Thanks in Advance.

July 9, 2017 at 11:34PM