A few years ago, the thought of hundreds of drones lighting up the night sky with images and stories would have been unimaginable.
Today, drones offer unparalleled artistic possibilities due to the large canvas they use — the sky!
Artistic expressions using drones are only possible because the drones can be controlled with great precision. It is possible to determine the position and trajectory of each drone as precisely as a painter controls the position and trajectory of his paintbrush.
GPS for outdoor shows and radio systems for indoor shows, allow the drones to maintain extremely stable positions in the air. A special carpet system has also been developed for indoor shows by the French drone light show company Dronisos. The carpet system, unique to Dronisos, allows for an inexpensive and quick indoor installation. A couple of examples of the carpet system in use can be found in the section below.
The drones, using these positioning systems are able to make very precise movements while coordinating with the other drones in the formation, thereby creating impressive three-dimensional figures. The visual possibilities that these luminous 3D choreographies offer are incredible. It is therefore undoubtedly legitimate to term this innovation a revolution — something we haven’t seen since the invention of fireworks.
Indoor Drone Shows
As the name suggests, indoor drone shows take place in an enclosed space at close proximity to the audience.
The drones are visible to the audience and if needed can be fitted with lights or dressed to resemble other flying objects. These drones often interact with the stage sets and performers during the show.
In an indoor drone show, the drones can either support the main event (musicals, dances, etc.) or take the centre stage themselves (amusement parks, circuses, museums, etc.).
An indoor drone show at the Arlette Gruss Circus using the special carpet — by Dronisos
The carpet system for indoor shows as seen in the videos above and below is a speciality of the French drone show company, Dronisos. The advantage of the carpet system over a radio system for indoor shows is that it is extremely fast and easy to setup. Depending on the number of drones, the setup could take as little as 10 minutes. This makes it the preferred choice for shows that frequently move from one location to another.
Marco Tempest and Dronisos drones on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
Due to the nature of the environment in which an indoor show is held, high accuracy is required. Even minor changes in the trajectory of an individual drone can affect the smooth running of the entire show. The drones generally operate at very short distances (< 20 cm) from each other, their fellow stage performers and the audience. The show operator is therefore required to possess extremely good control over the drones — position acquisition, trajectory control and choreographic control.
Outdoor Drone Shows
Outdoor drone shows offer a vastly different visual appeal to the audience. As space is no longer a constraint (stadiums being an exception), the drones used are bigger, more powerful and fly to greater heights. As the audience views the show from a distance of roughly 1 km, the drones are not visible to the naked eye and serve only as a support for the payload they carry — the LED. Each drone represents a single pixel in the sky. During a show, hundreds of drones are launched into the sky representing hundreds of pixels, forming captivating luminous figures.
These shows often compete directly with fireworks since they take place in similar conditions — at night and outdoors. A few top drone show companies, including Dronisos, have added pyrotechnic capabilities to offer an incredible combination of lights and fireworks while eliminating the noise and pollution caused by traditional fireworks.
The challenge in an outdoor show arises during formation changes when hundreds of drones need to manoeuvre into new positions.
Light Painting Photography using drones is another art form in the outdoor space. Here, an automated drone mounted with a bright LED follows a predetermined path, painting images in the sky. The camera’s shutter is kept open while the drone follows specific points in the sky called waypoints. This process can sometimes take up to 10 minutes depending on the number of waypoints defined in the image.
Drone light shows have turned the sky into a screen of infinite resolution. As technology improves, the detail achievable is limitless!