Booster Brolly: The solar-powered, signal-boosting umbrella


June 15, 2012

The Vodafone Booster Brolly uses solar panels to power your mobile phone and an antenna to boost its signal

The Vodafone Booster Brolly uses solar panels to power your mobile phone and an antenna to boost its signal

To really get the most out of the summer you have to head out of the city and into the country. Whether it be for a camping trip or a festival outing, the great outdoors is the best venue for sunnier days. Unfortunately rain can ruin a great day, as can a lack of mobile reception and the inability the charge your mobile phone. Vodafone thinks it has the answer to all three of these problems with the Booster Brolly, a humble umbrella turned all-in-one tool.

The Booster Brolly was designed for telecoms company Vodafone by PhD students at University College London led by Dr. Kenneth Tong. The lecturer in antennas and microwave technology calls his creation "a bit of a James Bond umbrella" due to the fact that "you can’t tell what it does from the outside.”

To solve the problem of mobile phones needing to be charged on a regular basis the Booster Brolly uses a similar technique to that of the Powerbrella - solar panels stitched into the canopy of the umbrella. The 12 x 2 volt panels turn the sun's energy into electricity which is then stored in a battery hidden within the handle. This can be hooked up to a mobile phone or other mobile device via USB (bad luck for iPhone users) as and when the need arises, and the company claims a smartphone can be charged in under three hours. Any excess power can be used to light the LED torch that also sits inside the handle.

To solve the problem of spotty network coverage the Booster Brolly uses a combination of high-gain antenna and low-power signal repeater to collect radio waves from the nearest mobile phone transmitter. These then create a signal shower above the user's head allowing them, and the people around them, to connect to the network. Despite this added tech the Booster Brolly still weighs in at just 800 grams (1.8 lbs).

A prototype of the Vodafone Booster Brolly is set to be trialled at the 2012 Isle Of Wight Festival later this month. This should prove to be a good test of the umbrella's usefulness in shielding people from the rain ... let's just hope there will be a period of sun prolonged enough to power the solar panels. In terms of the weather English summers typically last days rather than months.

Source: Vodafone Blog

About the Author
Dave Parrack Dave is a technology journalist with a ravenous appetite for gadgets, gizmos, and gubbins. He's based in the U.K., and from his center of operations writes about all facets of modern and future technology. He has learned more in his five years writing for the Web than he did in 11 years at school, and with none of the boring subjects thrown in to the mix. All articles by Dave Parrack

I could appreciate a parasol with a solar charger, but an umbrella?


First thing that comes to mind is the damage to phone and umbrella at the first wind without being held, for three hours. However, a skinless version that had full coverage solar panels, and collapsed down to fit in a pack or bag, could be an excellent solar charger and high-gain antenna booster. while allowing breezes to pass unhindered. It would need to be flatter for best charging angles and would be aimed by the handle toward the sun. It would have a higher output, and much less risk to the phone. Besides, other than use as a sun shade at the beach, who would ever use an umbrella for three hours? Umbrellas are generally short term use.


The device is only worth while if it costs exactly the same as a normal umbrella. Then your daughter losing it at school or it blowing away in a gale is going to annoy you a fraction as much.


What a clever idea! Now, you need to be out in the sun long enough for it to charge significantly. Or the rain should not be that heavy that the clouds have blocked out the sun. And the phone should be able to withstand the water or dust? Hmm..

But the foldable umbrella concept of a solar charger sounds good.

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