Super Bowl halftime shows are officially stepping into the drone era. This year's edition featured pop star Lady Gaga amidst a sea of the aerial devices.
Any guesses as to how many drones were used during her pre-taped aerial light show? If you guessed 10,000... you'd be way off. 300 drones were used for the show, which is still quite impressive.
The magnificent drone fleet is known as Intel's Shooting Star Drones and is specifically designed for large-scale choreographed displays. Each individual drone had built-in LED lights, adding to a total weight of 10 ounces. They can travel at speeds of up to 6.7 mph during the light show, which is hard to choreograph when you're talking about hundreds of them.
In preparation, Intel spent days and weeks meticulously planning the event—calculating necessary algorithms for drone placement and movement during the show, making sure they would create the perfect display in the sky. The planning apparently paid off, as the show was carried out to perfection.
This is Intel's first appearance in the Super Bowl, but the fleet has been used before. Disney World in Orlando employed them to create the sky show for its "Starbright Holidays" festivities this past holiday season.
Intel's Josh Walden said, "Our drones, together with Disney's expertise in animation as well as storytelling, and the music score, together make what we think is going to be a groundbreaking of entertainment." After five months of preparations, the live show started on November 20th, 2016 and was quite extraordinary.
The drones have the effect of shooting stars, moving about the sky while delicately maintaining a safe distance from each other.
Interestingly, the drones do not communicate with other drones. They are programmed individually, prior to the light show. Each one then has to navigate its own airspace based on the algorithm crunching and pre-programming work of the drone operators.
What if something happens to them? Intel has an extra couple hundred drones waiting on deck just in case something goes wrong, like a battery or CPU issue.
Another thing that could go wrong is a mid air collision with an actual airplane. This is one of the biggest concerns and regulatory hurdles for the expansion of drone use. It definitely helps that Intel CEO Brian Krzanich chairs the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee. This might explain why the Houston and Orlando shows went off without a hitch. Thanks to their successes, 2017 might very well become the year of the drone.