This article will go into greater detail about the technology of drone light shows. Many factors go into play: the creation of the performance, GPS technology, and safety.
The moment a company contacts Hot Wing Drones about a drone light show, we begin the process of creating it. We go over the theme they want, the story they wish to tell, and anything specific they would like to see. Once we have their vision, the animator can start designing the show. It begins with the animator determining the number of drones that will be used (anywhere from 50-500); all the drones need to be assigned a task, even if they will not be used during a specific animation. There are several programs that an animator can use; it comes down to their preference and if that program can export the correct files, which depends on what the company is using to upload the shows to the drones.
Once the animator is done, the show is uploaded to the specific program used by the company running the show. Here the performance is tested in a simulated environment. The purpose is to see if the drones pose safety hazards; for example, will they run into each other during transitions. Minor adjustments are made, and anything the program flagged is fixed. Once that is done, a sound engineer can be brought in, depending on if the customer wants the music to sync with the show. Once that is complete, a video will be shown to the client, and any further adjustments will be made. The final product is then loaded into the pilot’s computers which will be the ones that the drones use to execute a show.
The show’s creation depends on a skilled animator who knows what they are doing. The only absolute limit to the animations is the imagination of the creator.
Next is GPS technology, known as RTK. This term may seem familiar to people in the drone industry; when mapping an area, you need GCPS, RTK, or PPK (click here to get a read about the difference between the three). RTK stands for Real-Time Kinematics; it’s a GPS-based technology that uses live data that allows drones to have real-time coordinates based on the Earth; this allows the drones to be within centimeters of each other.
During the drone light show, one pilot must oversee the drones; that person must be ready for anything to happen. The drones run themselves based on predetermined animations. The central control computer has the status of all the drones; this is where the pilot will need to determine if any drone poses a hazard. If something were to happen during the show, the pilot could take charge of the one specific drone or the entire fleet. At this point, they can either safely land the drone or kill the whole show. This safety feature ensures everyone stays safe. Even with all the technology, there is still no replacement for eyes on the ground. That is why there is a visual observer; their job is to look for anything out of the ordinary.
Much more goes into every show; this article only scratches the surface. This was a fundamental overview, and each company has its workflow. But each show takes months to build and an entire team to execute.