UK insurer Direct Line has a clever idea: drone streetlights you summon on your phone and that follow you around when you need them. As the video above shows, this is very much a marketing campaign rather than a real service, but the software behind it is open source and the company’s execution is convincing. The drones live in a hangar, use the GPS in your phone to track you, and are shown lighting the way for a pedestrian, a group of cyclists, and a team of volunteer rescuers.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone stick lights on a drone, but it does paint a fuller picture of the practical uses. Obviously, keeping a fleet of drones ready for anyone to summon at a moment’s notice would be prohibitively expensive (not to mention illegal in built-up areas in the UK), but specialist uses could make it worthwhile. Doing a bit of cycling at night over hills with a drone posse would be fun, and if you're a farmer working in the winter months, having drones light the way in the early mornings and dark evenings would be very handy indeed. The potential benefits for search-and-rescue teams are also pretty self-evident.
However, if you’re a lone pedestrian worried about getting mugged in the dark (the scenario Direct Line angles its video on), it doesn’t seem like a floating spotlight that continually shows your location to anyone in the near vicinity would be a very sensible idea. Still, I bet we see some practical services like this pop up in future. If you're interested in the technology, there's a behind-the-scenes video that shows it in a little more detail: