Who needs fireworks when you have drones?

Posted on Nov 17 2016 - 1:51am by Huzoor Bux

Disney World is ditching the fireworks for drones this holiday season.

On Nov. 20, Disney and Intel are launching the Starbright Holidays Drone Show, which they’re billing as the world’s largest drone LED show. 

That’s right, instead of carefully-orchestrated fireworks shooting hundreds of feet into the air to create images of a flag, flower or intersecting circles, 300 Intel drones will shine 4 billion different colors in the night sky.

The show will feature Intel’s ‘shooting star drones.’

The show, which will be held over a lake at Disney Springs (formerly Disney Downtown), is the culmination of months and months of technology development and experimentation by Intel and a new partnership with Disney that’s done some eye-popping imagineering of its own.

Known as The Shooting Star, the all foam and plastic fliers weighs about as much as a volleyball and can stay aloft for up to 20 minutes. 

Intel has been testing these LED-equipped show drones since 2015, when it set a world record in Germany, flying and controlling 100 drones and even programming them to configure themselves into the Intel Logo.

Intel took the show on the road, flying the drones all over Europe. That experience, Intel’s SVP of New Technology Josh Walden told Mashable, taught Intel a lot about drone choreography. They were doing it wrong. Each of the shows took weeks and weeks to program and they needed a significant number of people on the ground to pilot the drones.

“We went back and designed the platform from the bottom up for light shows,” said Walden.

The new platform lets the programming happen offsite and the pilot is able to upload the entire show to all the drones, which are sitting on interface platforms, at once. 

Intel’s algorithms not only program the drones, but quickly calculates exactly how many will be needed for each show. Starting the performance takes the push of one button.

The Intel Shooting Star Drone is made, mostly, of light-weight foam and plastic.

The Intel Shooting Star Drone is made, mostly, of light-weight foam and plastic.

The quadcopter drones have built-in GPS, which is so precise the programming now lets them fly just 1.5 meters apart (the original Shooting Star drones had to be at least 3 meters apart). The drones have no visual sensors to note if other drones are around them, Walden said.

Drones and people don’t always mix, so Disney and Intel are keeping the drones roughly 200 yards away from the audience and don’t plan to fly them over anyone’s head. The drones are also geo-fenced so none can wander out of the safe zone. Pilots will be on the ground to take control if necessary.

Beyond the holiday-theme and full orchestra accompaniment, Intel couldn’t give us any details on the contents of the show, which will run through Jan. 8. However, a teaser posted by Disney does show the drones configured into a towering Christmas tree.

BONUS: Take a look at the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon

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