Disney files patent for air and water powered robots

The drawings may look simple: a person projected on a white square. But theme park experts say for Disney’s "imagineers," it may represent the future of robotics at their parks. 

"Disney is always looking for new ways to bring their characters to life," said Disney expert Seth Kubersky.

A patent application Disney recently filed describes a free-flying robot using air and water power thrusters to hover and move quickly. The robot will use a fan and fluid-based propulsion system to create thrust or quick changes in speed. 

Disney expert Matt Roseboom said technology like this could help bring the company's characters to life. "When Iron Man comes down to land, he flies in quick and slows down and even has propulsion coming from the bottom of his boots. So that would fit with what this does."

Kubersky also said it would help draw visitors to certain locations or events. "I can certainly see it be used in a land outside an attraction like the Spider-Man animatronic is used to draw a crowd once an hour or so, it would also be perfect for some of their nighttime spectaculars."

The application shows how the propulsion system would work and how a projector could also coordinate with the robot to create special effects. But theme park experts say it could take a while before this tech actually shows up in Disney’s parks. "I would say that fans reading these patents should not get too excited to rush right out and see it anytime soon," said Kubersky.

"You could see it as quick as a couple of years," Roseboom added, "but more likely five-to-ten years before something is seen."