As with any Olympics Opening Ceremony, the pageantry is of global scale, but this year, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Intel took it to a whole new level–a record-setting 1,218 drones hit the skies for a mechanical phenomenon. There’s never been anything like it.
Intel’s Shooting Star software platform enables an army of one foot-long, eight ounce, plastic and foam quadcopters to fly in sync along an animator’s pre-determined path. General Manager of Intel’s drone group, Anil Nanduri, said, “It’s in essence technology meeting art.”
However, while the drone light show aired during the Opening Ceremony, the actual footage was shot back in December due to the fact that there were going to be too many spectators standing in the area where the live drone show was supposed to take place, which the Olympic organizing committee considered to be a safety issue. Pyeongchang is a cold and windy city and the risk was too high.
Of course, the pre-recording of this show did not take away from the awe created by these drones. The Olympic-themed animations, including a snowboarder and the iconic interlocking rings, were created by careful coding and the four billion color combinations enabled by its onboard LEDs, resulting in quite the spectacle. Once the animations were in place, each drone operated independently, communicating with a central computer rather than with each other. The central computer also decided which drone played which role based on battery level and GPS strength of each drone in the flock. The drones can only fly for approximately 20 minutes due to the limitation of their lithium-ion batteries, which was another challenge in the cold climate.
Eventually Intel hopes to graduate its drone light show fleet to more compelling operations like search and rescue. However, utilizing these drones for that purpose would require some regulatory changes or advancement so that is not likely in the immediate future. For now, the Shooting Star drones will continue to wow the world with their spectacular light shows, especially now that they have participated in the world’s largest drone light show ever.