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Drone shows – The future of Show Business
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Drones Shows – the Future of Show Business

In the business of events and spectacle, there are several important roles, a qualified pilot can do including broadcasting and filming to safety and security, and the exciting and emerging field of drone shows. Highly specialized, complex and regulated, the drone show business is a blend of science, symphony and spreadsheets, and it’s coming to a sky near you.

Environmentally friendly and animal friendly; drone displays have emerged as a credible alternative to the traditional firework shows popular over the holiday and new year period, even during this pandemic period.

Why they are the future

Drone light shows offer a level of control, customisation and complexity that pyrotechnics simply cannot match. To perform a drone show, multiple quadcopters coordinate to fly in programmed, preset patterns, tracing out shapes in the sky that are often choreographed to music. With lights attached to the drones, the result looks similar to brightly coloured moving stars or animated pixel art at a very low resolution.

From London New Year’s Eve 2020, which featured a swarm of 300 drones illuminating the sky, each one acting as a pixel to form images that represented the past year: an NHS logo, a heart, a ‘Black Lives Matter’ fist, a blue-and-yellow EU dove and the ‘You’re On Mute’ microphone symbol. Months previously, President Biden’s victory speech in Delaware saw drones take to the sky to form up the United States flag and the number ‘46’, the number of Biden’s presidency.

What is a Drone Display

A drone display (also known as a drone show) is the use of multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), often quadcopters, flying in a coordinated fashion for public display.

Biggest Swarm to Date

The competition to set the record for most drones in a display is constantly changing hands. In October 2020, the Shenzhen Damoda Intelligent Control Technology Co., Ltd. (China) in Zhuhai, Guangdong, set the record for most drones in a display: 3,051. It’s certainly just a matter of time till this record is broken.

Who are the big leaders in Drone Display?

Currently, there are only a handful of qualified and approved companies operating internationally that have the skill, scale and technology to executive complex and 3D drone shows. These companies include Intel, Celestial lab, Sky Magic, Firefly and others, as controlling rolling swarms of up to 3,000 drones requires skill, proprietary technology, artistic flare and a huge amount of preparation. However, as drones are becoming part of daily life, we expect drone show companies to become more present across the globe and to cater to all manner of clients and occasions.

What’s in a Show?

While the number of drones in a display adds to the complexity, the biggest challenge for drone show technicians is the number of patterns or images displayed in a 5-10-minute show or longer. Due to battery constraints and safety concerns, displays typically only last so long. As tech improves, this is likely to improve going forward.

In a recent article, two of the UK’s and world’s leading drone show companies, Sky Magic and Celestial Labs shared some key insights into their process, and lifted the lid on the magic they create.

“Everything we do is proprietary. We have proprietary software, and we have our own drone,” explains Emily Wallace from SkyMagic, the company behind the London New Year’s Eve event. According to her, each drone in the fleet is capable of travelling up to 15 metres per second and more importantly, is capable of displaying any colour, to the power of 900 lumens, making it visible up to 2km away.

To move the drones and create the effects, companies use systems that pre-program each drone in the fleet with a set of instructions when they take off. This ensures that if the signal linking the drones to ground control is lost, it will not impact the performance. So, while the though the drones appear to be moving as a swarm, whatever images are required, they are actually all moving and performing entirely independently.

And yet while a show only last 5-10 minutes due to battery performance and safety guidelines, the more complex a show can take a minimum of 3 months of planning and army of team members and a lot of paperwork.

To move the drones and create the effects, companies use systems that pre-program each drone in the fleet with a set of instructions when they take off. This ensures that if the signal linking the drones to ground control is lost, it will not impact the performance. So, while the though the drones appear to be moving as a swarm, whatever images are required, they are actually all moving and performing entirely independently.

And yet while a show only last 5-10 minutes due to battery performance and safety guidelines, the more complex a show can take a minimum of 3 months of planning and army of team members and a lot of paperwork.

But what does it cost?

Drone light shows are complex and expensive, but they deliver bank for buck without the bang and noise of fireworks.

Intel, the famed computer chip manufacturer, drone displays begin from $99,000 for 200 classic drones; while a 500-drone display can cost north of $299k. More complex drone shows use more aircraft and the price can escalate. If you’re looking to host a sho or develop this capacity be prepared to invest for the long-term.

Regardless, the cost of drone shows are going to remain pricy to produce depending on complexity and scale. Yet they are gaining in popularity and the technology is becoming more available.

Get Ready For The Future
With Drone Safety & Legal

As you can see the opportunities for employment in the fast-growing drone sector is almost limitless for qualified and experienced pilots. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this exciting industry, please get in touch with our team today. Go on and invest in yourself and get future ready!

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