How are drone light shows changing visual entertainment experience?

Drones surely are a very fascinating technology in recent times. You must have spotted a drone every now and then whether it is an event that is being recorded, a relative’s wedding or in recent global news. While a lot of the applications of drones have to do with research or defence, a major application of drones is in the entertainment sector where they are fast changing the visual art with light shows. These drones equipped with state of the art technology have the perfect coordination, perfect movement, and perfect execution of activities that ensure that whatever is meant to be shown at these light shows is nothing less than perfection. In this article, we will see how these light shows are made and why this is a probable game changer in the coming years.

What is a drone light show?

Groups of drones that are lit up, coordinated, and choreographed to form different airborne patterns are used to create drone light displays. A computer software that converts pictures into flight orders and transmits them to the drones can almost reproduce any image in the sky. Drones used to generate light shows are just outfitted with the absolute minimum: GPS sensors and a powerful LED light that can produce more than four billion different colour combinations. This gives these drones the ability to create a wider variety of effects than pyrotechnics and to offer virtually limitless chances for creative storytelling in the sky. There are other drones that are made expressly to fly securely in confined air spaces, such as inside, where it is impossible to use pyrotechnics. Light show drones are made up of a battery, an LED module, and GPS sensors, and they are quite light. The drone needs less power to stay aloft and is easier to operate the lighter it is. For instance, the Shooting Star drones from Intel were totally constructed of plastic and foam and did not include a single screw. These drones don’t need many sensors since they follow a pre-programmed flying route.

Intel drone light show

How is a light show created?

Drones equipped with LED lights that have been programmed to do tricks and create patterns in the sky are used to create drone light displays. Some of them also have smoke ejectors on board. Any design may be created by these drones as long as it has been pre programmed using the appropriate software. It would be chaotic and hard to control each drone with hundreds or thousands of pilots. But just 1 or 2 drone pilots are needed thanks to programming, AI, and 3D modelling, which ensures perfect coordination. The dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Vijay Kumar, initially discussed the concept of flying coordinated drones in a TED Talk in 2012. Flight planning is the most crucial part of the process. It’s where programmers design the various movements the drones will pull off, and it can take weeks or even months to complete. To achieve this, they use 3D animation software like Blender to design the choreography. Since this technology is relatively new, there are no best practices or bad practices. All you need to do is tell a story with the drones like you would with pixel art. But with drone light shows, you need to consider that the choreography must be viewable from all directions. If you’re into animation, this is another way that you can bring your imagination into reality.

While this technology is fascinating and can surely add a breathtaking moment in any event, these light shows do not come in without putting in a significant amount of money. The cost of a light show can range from $100,000 for a 200 drone 2D image show to $400,000 for more than 500 drones and 3D image show. 

Drone shows vs fireworks

The negative effects of fireworks displays on the environment are coming under increased scrutiny since they are wasteful, loud, and polluting. Concerns are frequently expressed about their effect on delicate animal populations and soldiers suffering from PTSD. Additionally, due to the heightened risk of wildfires, fireworks displays have been outright prohibited in several places. Drone light shows are ideally positioned to fill the void left by the replacement of fireworks displays by alternatives as a result of these and other considerations. Drone performances have frequently been employed effectively as an excellent addition to fireworks displays. Drones, however, have a lot more to offer as a brand-new and thrilling form of entertainment. Since they can perform a far wider variety of effects than fireworks and can perform intricate choreography, they have a much higher potential for telling stories in the sky. Drones can also be used in locations with additional restrictions, where fireworks are never permitted. 

When you think about it, the repertoire of fireworks is actually fairly small. Typically, a small number of effects are used repeatedly, but in different combinations, sizes, colours, and intensities. Why accept this when you can have dynamic, movable 3D pixels that can provide practically infinite imagery? Compared to pyrotechnics, drones provide far more inventive alternatives. In fact, it’s not hard to imagine that, as drone performances proliferate, fireworks displays could one day seem somewhat pedestrian in contrast.

Drone shows around the world

Drone show at the Indian Beating retreat ceremony 

Around a thousand drones manufactured in India lighted up the sky in various shapes on Saturday during the Beating Retreat ritual in Delhi. The Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi provided backing for the startup Botlab Dynamics, which organised the world’s first laser display. Around a thousand drones manufactured in India lighted up the sky in various shapes on Saturday during the Beating Retreat ritual in Delhi. The Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi provided backing for the startup Botlab Dynamics, which organised the world’s first laser display.

Drone karaoke in Rome

500 drones were employed by Amazon’s Prime Video in April 2022 to produce a karaoke show above Rome. The incredibly unusual promotion, known as “Staraoke,” was carried out to support the platform’s most recent original film, Laura Pausini – Piacere di conoscerti (Pleased to Meet You), which centres on the life of one of Italy’s most well-known singers.

Drones from “Halo” soar above Austin

In March 2022, Paramount+ deployed more than 400 drones over Austin to advertise their science fiction series Halo, which is based on the well-known Xbox game about a warrior fending against an alien invasion. The culmination of the city’s first-ever drone light show, which was as big as two football fields and as tall as the Statue of Liberty, included a QR code that directed viewers to the series’ trailer.

New year drone light show in Gwangalli, Busan

The new year event featured over 1500 drones and was the biggest drone event held in South Korea. During the opening ceremony of Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, a total of 1218 of the drones were used to perform the show. The drone countdown show had over 1500 drones visualising a door which leads to 2023, and later on the door opens and the countdown will start. Once the countdown ended, when midnight strikes, drones visualised a black rabbit which symbolises the year 2023.

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