AUSTIN, Texas -- Not every drone is created equal. Some are programmed to provide surveillance, others are used to film weddings and some are just flown around for fun. Now, there's a new drone that's a bit more subversive -- Tyrone the Drone.
This drone can breathe fire, deploy spray paint and, possibly even more egregiously, squirt silly string on unsuspecting victims.
Tyrone made its debut here at the South by Southwest festival, which brings together technorati, filmmakers and musicians. Consumer drones have surged in popularity over the past couple of years, coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes. According to CNBC, more than 200,000 drones are sold each month worldwide. But Tyrone is a bit different. Made by mobile software design and development studio Chaotic Moon, this drone is meant to be part proof of concept, part harebrained stunt.
"We're always asking 'what if, what if, what if,'" said Chad Darbyshire, director of marketing for Chaotic Moon. "Our philosophy is technology is neither good nor bad, it's inert."
The idea for Chaotic Moon is to create curiosity around technology. So Tyrone the flamethrower isn't meant to burn anything down, it's meant to get people asking questions about the capabilities of drones.
"We're pushing the limits of drones and what they're capable of," said Eric Schneider, a creative technologist at Chaotic Moon.
Unfortunately for Tyrone, its outdoor flying freedom was temporarily constrained during SXSW. The Austin Police Department declared the city a drone-free zone just days before the festival began. Officials said the ban was due to safety issues around congested Wi-Fi signals since drones are controlled wirelessly.
But that didn't stop Tyrone from zooming around the Chaotic Moon studios. In a demo Sunday, Schneider showed off the drone's capabilities.
He placed Tyrone on the ground of an open room with big windows and a mannequin propped up against a wall. Schneider then stepped back and switched on the remote used to control Tyrone. The shoebox-size quadcopter's blades started humming and the machine lifted off making its way toward the mannequin. When Tyrone was about two feet from the mannequin it ejected a stream of florescent green silly string straight into the mannequin's face.
Tyrone works with anything that can be aerosolized -- so besides silly string, spray paint or even Cheez Whiz works. The flame-throwing version of Tyrone squirts hairspray onto a makeshift pilot light mounted to the drone. But it looks like the fire-breathing Tyrone will never see the light of day.
"We were burning all of these effigies and the chief of police was like you're never going to do that ever again," said Darbyshire.