The Phoenix Design Academy is an Innovation Lab for young and experienced designers, where they can realise and share their visions. The joint claim is to work on topics relevant for society, and to find new solutions for current problems. As project leaders, the students pass through the entire creative process, from finding the first idea via iterative prototyping all the way to the product which can be put into practice. They are accompanied by their mentor Sven Feustel, Design Team Manager with Phoenix Design, and by other specialists from the Phoenix team.
Luminous drone "bat"
Tobias Tsamisis developed “Bat” in the Phoenix Design Academy. It is the concept of a flying light with accompanies you wherever you are and which shows you the way. It’s next to you when you go jogging, it tracks you on the ski slope or sees you safely home. Bat is small and compact when it is transported. Unfolded, it is agile and creates a lighting atmosphere where otherwise it would be dark. Bat is intelligent, tracks its surroundings and is able to react to human beings and their gestures.
Mega-trends in society, global “pollution” by light, and new technological opportunities in terms of LED and drones are the fertile ground this idea has blossomed on. Light as a magical factor and emotional trigger constitutes the sensual component which makes the topic particularly attractive.
Sven Feustel oversees the Phoenix Design Academy. What’s special about this project is a sculpture of light which meets high aesthetic demands in its various states. The emotionality kindled by light combined with the mobile aspect generates a magical mood and creates a bond towards the drone. In the beginning, he asked the question whether technology and conceptual relevance could be brought together. That’s where he put in particular support for Tobias, especially in the research and analysis phases, in order to ensure an expanded perspective encompassing the proper need context. And also in order to translate the findings into a strongly significant concept.
During the realisation phase, the “Bat” was modelled by our seasoned model makers led by Senior Design Modeller Uwe Evertz, using different techniques. The particular goal was to make the shade reminiscent of glass fibre sticks, spreading the light in a diffuse manner. Consequently, the material of choice was acrylic glass. The benefits: precision, stability and colour-fastness. Taking a single block of 25kg acrylic glass and applying precision work to the highest degree, each little hole was milled out so that the drone shade turned out particularly lightweight – finally weighing only 250g, i.e. merely 1 per cent of the original material. The unusual shape also called for a new adhesive technology. After the upper side had been milled out, the shape was again filled out using transfer film and resin, thus stabilising the back side while the milling continued. The negative was later removed from the delicate shade using heat. The milling challenge is visible not least by the file size of more than 1 GB. After three days of milling, the shade was finally finished – the rotary sieves were then produced in a 3D printer.
In our interview, Tobias Tsamisis answers the most pertinent questions about the "Bat" drone concept.
Why do we need Mobile Light?
When it's dark, light is a basic requirement for our mobility. Still, in most cases, our light is stationary and not very flexible. Moreover, stationary light has an impact on our environment, and even discussing efficiency is quite in order. A mobile light which accompanies us and is only used where it is really needed could in part replace stationary light. But there’s another aspect of why we need mobile light, and that is of course the appeal and fascination of mobile light. Having the freedom to move about individually, to feel safe and secure and to easily create a lighting atmosphere off the beaten track.
Which were the project challenges?
For us to be able to really move around freely, it was particularly important to combine lighting with a high degree of mobility. A possibility to integrate a new kind of mobility into our daily life, i.e. flying, is offered by drones. However, it was particularly difficult to find a transformation which keeps the balance among all important factors, e.g. light quality and performance, but also compactness and light weight. Only in this way, a compelling concept could come about.
What is special about the design?
The language of forms and the different individual components are to communicate what’s emotional and fascinating about light, and on the other hand, the dynamics and intelligence of the products are to become visible. The product – and with it the design focus – changes in its different states. When it’s flying, the light is in the foreground; when it’s folded together, the focus is on transformation.
How do you envisage the future with Mobile Light?
If you take a look at how light has evolved, it becomes clear right away that this has happened in close connection with human beings. Many big milestones in the development of mankind were powered or even made possible by the development of light. Light sources like (O)LEDs are getting smaller, more compact and more efficient all the time, and it seems as if the biggest hurdles for mobile light have been overcome. Of course, mobile flying light could not only find its proper place in our leisure activities and our daily life, but also in extreme cases like working in darkness or during emergencies and catastrophes.
What do you find fascinating about this topic?
For me, this topic combines three super interesting topics. On the one hand, the emotional aspect and fascination of light, on the other hand the dynamically growing drone market, and then of course artificial intelligence in computers. It has also been exciting to examine and observe the interaction between human beings and light, and to have it influence the project.