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Drones Take over the Super Bowl in More Ways Than One

Two years ago, at Super Bowl LI – the greatest Super Bowl ever – Intel Shooting Star Drones performed as the opening act for the half-time show headlined by Lady Gaga. The performance was the first time drones were commissioned to perform at the Super Bowl. Back then, General Manager of Intel’s New Technology Group Josh Walden remarked positively about the potential of drone light shows.

The 2017 show was composed of 300 Intel Shooting Star drones. Together, they lit up the sky to transform into the Pepsi logo, American flag, and the Intel logo. For that show, concerns about “the weather and environment” led to the drone’s being filmed ahead of time, and what we all saw on TV was a pre-recorded performance filmed in January. Thus, sports fans who attended the game could not witness the light show live with Lady Gaga. Regardless, the show was one more milestone achieved after the precedent Intel set with their record-breaking performance from two years before.

In 2015, Intel achieved its first Guinness World Records title by flying 100 drones simultaneously. The following year, they would break their own record in Germany with 500 drones flown at one time. In December 2017, Intel would break their own record yet again with the performance they pre-recorded for the Olympics opening ceremony. The performance was accomplished using 1,218 of the Shooting Star drones. In this year's Super Bowl, which aired February 4th, Intel Shooting Star Drones continue their legacy of innovative drone light show performances by breaking one of their Guinness World Records, yet again. With 150 of their new Enhanced Intel Shooting Star drones, Intel’s team choreographed an indoor light show that beat the previous record of 110. This was not a challenge-free feat though.

As explained by Anil Nanduri, Intel Drone Group VP and GM, there were a few things that made this performance unique. For one, being indoors in the enclosed Mercedes-Benz stadium meant that the team could not rely on GPS to track the location of the drones. Instead, they used the same location technology used in the Radio City Music Hall with their performances with the Rockettes. Another aspect that made this performance special was that unlike with Super Bowl LI, when the performance was pre-recorded, this show was performed live, meaning the stakes were high.

The Shooting Stars weren’t the only drones with permission to be present at the Super Bowl. During all the festivities, Skyfire Consulting, whose website proclaims them to be America's leading public safety UAS experts, was performing security checks with the help tethered DJI quadcopter's. Matt Sloane, who co-founded the company, was on a nearby rooftop performing a security watch with a team of pilots. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Sloane's “extensive safety plan” included using a tether system made by Drone Aviation Corp. The drones used for their security detail were the DJI Matrice 210.

Skyfire and Intel’s presence at the Super Bowl is an indicator that drones are still being applied in a variety of ways, whether it’s entertainment or security. There’s no slowing down progress. Drone light shows and tethered drones have been covered on this blog before. Read about them and more on the Women Who Drone blog.


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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