Entrepreneur and starter-upper, Nils Thorjussen has been a pioneer in various aspects of the entertainment design industry as co-founder of a few successful companies—from cutting-edge lighting consoles with Flying Pig Systems and innovative LED products with Element Labs. He’s back on the scene as CEO of Verge Aero, where he is putting his Stanford MBA to use in pioneering a new field, that of drones in entertainment applications. Live Design chats with Thorjussen about his new venture.
1. What have you been doing of late, and what brings you back to the industry (if you have been away)?
Over the past few years I've been helping a variety of startups in other industries. I thought I'd happily moved on from the world of entertainment, but I feel like Michael Corleone in The Godfather: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"
For some time now, I've been excited about the possibilities around deploying drones in entertainment applications, but it's taken me a while to find the right team to partner with. I started poking around and eventually connected with a young group of engineers from the aerospace industry. They asked me to join them as their CEO, so here I am!
2. What roles are drones playing in the entertainment technology field, strictly design-oriented or other roles as well?
It's still early days for drones in entertainment—much like the start of automated lighting. There's vast potential, and some beautiful work has been done by pioneers like Intel, Verity, and a few others. So far, drones have primarily been used as artistic elements, but I expect their roles will evolve over time.
3. What are the challenges of using drones at festivals or on concert tours?
Beyond the significant technical challenge of getting them in the air and having them perform as expected, there's a large safety and regulatory aspect to all of this. Systems must be designed to standards closer to what's used in commercial aviation than what's otherwise normal in entertainment. Government approvals may be required, all depending on the venue. To date, drones have only appeared on a limited number of high profile events, such as the Super Bowl or Metallica, but over time they will become more widespread as systems become more robust and easier to use.
4. What other new technologies do you see coming down the pike?
I see vast potential for robotics in entertainment—not just drones. My goal is to safely get this technology into the hands of the brilliant designers working in entertainment and see what happens. Once they begin to explore the possibilities, we'll see a lot of interesting things happen.
5. How do you keep abreast of what's going on in the industry?
I read Live Design religiously!