Rainy days typically mean lugging around a soggy, wet umbrella - but that might not always be the case. Air Umbrella, which was developed by a company in China with the same name, uses forced air, not fabric, to make a canopy that keeps the raindrops from falling on your head. Once you have arrived at your destination, you can place the dry device in your bag until you’re ready to go out again.
The Air Umbrella sort of looks like a large flashlight. The head has a motor and fan that forces the air up and out, creating a shield from the rain. The umbrella’s shaft is a rechargeable lithium ion battery. At the base, a simple button serves as the on/off switch. Additionally, there is a controller dial that changes the size of the air canopy. It can be expanded to over a meter in diameter, making enough room for two people to be protected from the rain.
The umbrella has been tested in heavy rainfall conditions and seems to perform quite well. The company reports that the sound of the rain typically drowns out the sound of the umbrella. They report that the air pushes water droplets up to 70 centimeters (27.5 inches) away. Changing the way the umbrella is held should also address rain coming down diagonally. While the Air Umbrella is capable of deflecting light wind, extremely heavy wind can cut through the air canopy. However, as the manufacturers observe, even normal umbrellas aren’t really great under those circumstances either.
If you want to be among the first to get your hands on this product, it is currently available through a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign has raised nearly $35,000, which far exceeds the $10,000 goal over a week ahead of the October 24th deadline. As of the time of this writing, the most inexpensive option is $118, but those are selling quickly.
There are currently three models in development, dubbed A, B, and C, each with different features to meet various needs. The A model is 30 cm (12 in) in length, weighing in at 500 grams (1.1 pounds) and can run for 15 minutes per charge. The B model is longer at 50 cm (19.8 in) long and 800 g (1.7 lbs), lasting 30 minutes per charge. The C model also lasts 30 minutes, weighs in at 850 g (1.9 lbs), but can be scaled anywhere from 50-80 cm (19.8-31.5 in).
The company admits that the battery life is fairly short but they hope to improve the umbrella design over the next 10 months using the money raised from the Kickstarter campaign. Additionally, they will address the design and practicality, making whatever adjustments necessary. Production of the improved devices will begin in September 2015, and all Kickstarter backers are expected to receive their Air Umbrellas before December 31, 2015.