Disney World’s nightly firework show may soon face competition from an unexpected competitor in the form of drones. Hundreds of swirling and spinning LED-illuminated drones. The drones will come from Intel. The electronics giant turned first to Disney to showcase its next generation drones.

The drones are capable of doing things fireworks simply cannot do. Flying together in unison as a fleet, the drones can paint the sky with three-dimensional images that twist, turn, and form into new shapes. Best of all, they can all be controlled by one person. The magic lies in the new software. The drones themselves are called the Shooting Stars and 300 will take to the sky above a Disney World lake today to put on an aerial holiday show.

Intel says there is no limit as to how many drones can be controlled with their new platform. The company envisions a future where drones fly in fleets to accomplish productive tasks. The same software that Intel and Disney will be using can be used in search and rescue operations or inspection of equipment and goods. The drones could even create a floating LED screen!

Intel and Disney partnered up to produce an all-new light show. It took five months from start to finish – with only three of those months being used to actually design the aerial images. Thanks to Intel’s proprietary software, the program does most of the heavy lifting. Built in-house, the software gives one pilot control over a limitless amount of drones. The software calculates what is needed to reproduce an image with drones. Input an image and the software will determine how many drones are needed to recreate it. While switching images, the software can switch LED lights on/off and calculate pathways to eliminate collisions.

The Federal Aviation Administration have Disney the go ahead to use aerial drones at night in their parks. The approval will last until 2020.

The Shooting Star drones are simple devices. They can fly within 1.5 meters of each other at speeds of 3 meters per second. They have a flight time of 20/22 minutes. The drones do not communicate with each other at all. Each drone has a bright LED installed under the main housing. A basic show can be programmed in an hour or two. More complex ones can be made in several days to a week.

 

Safety is a significant concern and has been addressed in several ways. The software installed geo-fenced area with two borders. If a drone crosses one line, it is told to return home. If it keeps going and crosses the second boundary, it is automatically told to disable its motors, causing it to drop. The body of the drone is light and simple. The composition is wire, light plastic, and styrofoam. The total weight is 280 grams: about the same as a volleyball.

The “Starbright Holiday” show is scheduled to run throughout this holiday season in Disney World.

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