A new direction in the use of drones for show biz officially premiered on Sunday, November 20, 2016, as Starbright Holidays – An Intel Collaboration lights up the skies at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. This new holiday show, which incorporates 300 drones, runs through January 8, 2017 and, as reported by theamericangenius.com, "You can’t have new Disney magic without a fantastical name and these newly dubbed Flixels (floating-pixels!) are no exception. The company announced in their 2014 patent that these four, six, and eight blade multi-copters will be magically incorporated into Disney story elements that engage and inspire children and their families."
Here is a video preview:
The American Genius article goes on to say: "Disney says that in addition to floating around in light formations like in the video, the drones could be used to carry projectors and projection screens or help light fireworks."
Of course, Disney had to get around its own no-fly zone rules to use the drones, but they were able to work with the FAA to do so. Matt Burns in TechCrunch has a good take on the technology: "The star of the show isn’t the drones; it’s the software. Built in-house at Intel, a series of programs gives one pilot control over a nearly limitless amount of drones. It’s built to scale, I’m told, and capable of controlling a force of more than 10,000 drones.
"The software calculates what’s needed to reproduce an image with drones. Input an image, say the TechCrunch logo, and the software will determine how many drones are needed to recreate the green TC. Then input another image. This time the image might take fewer drones so the software will move some drones out of the main cloud and switch off their LED lights, essentially making them disappear into the sky. In between the two images, the software devises movement paths that eliminate collisions. The drones themselves do not have collision detection. The software does that for the drones."
And, of course, the Disney designers and Imagineers added the magic and pixie dust to make a memorable holiday experience.