Drone Light Shows burst onto the scene during the 2017 Super Bowl performance, and have been rapidly gaining popularity ever since. Attend a major concert, sporting event or product launch these days, and there’s a good chance it will include a drone light show.

What is a drone light show?

Drone light shows are performed by illuminated, synchronized, and choreographed groups of drones that arrange themselves into various aerial formations. Let’s clear up one thing first: Drones used in shows are not self-aware, can’t think for themselves, and make no real-time decisions. Instead, like obedient servants, they follow specific commands sent to them and can’t deviate!

Almost any image can be recreated in the sky by a computer program that turns graphics into flight commands and communicates them to the drones.

How it works?

First, the design team creates a storyboard timeline showing the desired images and effects added to the show. These looks are then animated in a specialized piece of software that translates them into synchronized flight paths for each drone, and usually a soundtrack is created to accompany the show. Complete shows are sent to the drones via radio signal from a ground control station operated by a pilot. When the pilot is satisfied that everything is safe and ready to go, the show starts, and the drones take off to draw the storyboard in the sky.

Creating a system that can be flown safely and repeatedly requires a lot of clever engineering work. EVSky drones are missing some things normally found on drones, like cameras, and include unique features, such as a blindingly bright LED light source.

Our design software calculates the flight paths of each drone to guarantee they don’t collide in the air, and generates a full 3D rendering of the show to ensure it looks exactly as intended. Every drone is sent a unique program and the ground control station monitors each drone over a local, encrypted network for maximum safety.

The drones themselves carry multiple radios operating simultaneously, away from busy WiFi frequencies, to ensure communications are maintained even in busy and noisy radio environments.

Shows are flown by certified pilots, experts in relevant aviation subject matter, including regulations and weather. Prior to every show, checklists are used to make sure everything is in order: drones are fully operational, batteries are charged, and the flight area is clear. Once these checks are complete, the pilot presses GO and the drones take off on their mission!

How Many Drones Are Needed for a Show?

Not as many as you might think!

Of course, the number of drones required depends on exactly what you’re trying to achieve. Complex logos will always require more drones to accurately represent them in the air. The more intricate the shape, the more drones are needed to create it. Likewise, audience size and viewing distance will influence how many drones are needed to make the required visual impact.

That said, it doesn’t take a huge number of drones to create an impressive show. For a small event, even 30 drones can go a long way; amazing work has been done with fleets this small. Like any artistic endeavor, it’s all about how the tools are used.

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