Drone Light Shows: A Bright Future for Aerial Entertainment


Acrobats, air shows, fireworks and now drones! Performances high in the sky have been spectacles for generations, and now the latest iteration in aerial entertainment is here: drone light shows. While planes can only fly outdoors, and fireworks are loud fire hazards, drones are versatile, reusable, and just as entertaining. Take earlier this year for example. The 2018 winter Olympics featured many performances, but the highlight of the opening ceremony was the masterfully synchronized light show performed by a record-breaking 1,218 drones (beginning at 1:58:18). As they flew over 100 skiers, the drones assembled to take the shape of a snowboarder flying along the slopes. The drones concluded the ceremony by reassembling into the Olympic rings, wowing even the commentators.

Clearly, this won’t be the first time that these drones amaze audiences. Developed by Intel, the drones used in the opening ceremony have performed at many other major events. Their website states, “From Germany to South Korea, our drone light shows are shining bright across the world.” This year, Intel’s drones have also performed light shows at the Bellagio Hotel and Coachella. The Intel® Shooting Star™ drones performed the largest drone light show ever to celebrate Intel’s 50th anniversary, creating a display of 2,018 drones and breaking their own record. Their most recent performance was to celebrate Independence Day with military families.

While Intel is by far the largest company doing work like this, there are other organizations in the drone light show business. To start, there's That Drone Show, which has hosted events for a laundry list of well-known clients, including Disney, Kia, and Fox Studios. Firefly Drone Shows, an FAA approved company, uses “Cutting-Edge Drone Swarm Technology” to create performances for corporate and private events. Performances can be held inside or outside, and they also offer to record the performance either from the ground or from a drone.

Ultimately, the advent of drone light shows is a reflection of our society's technological progress. A few years ago, Intel's performance would not have been possible. Now, light shows are traversing the world. Regardless, it is unlikely that drones will replace other forms of aerial entertainment. However, they are providing a viable alternative to traditional shows and something new for us all to enjoy.

I am a writer and an artist based in Georgia. Specializing in illustration, graphic design, and video art, I love to explore the new ways technology intersects with art. I think drones have done amazing things for photography and video art, making what would previously be costly and difficult more accessible. As a complete novice, it was only recently that I saw what independent artists could do with their drones, and I continue to be impressed by the sights that drones are able to explore and the images they can capture. Instagram: @tyesha.ferron

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