Surekha Ragavan
Feb 11, 2019

How it really works... drone light shows

"I think there’s more opportunity than just replacing fireworks."

A swarm of drones creates an iconic merlion for National Day Parade celebrations at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
A swarm of drones creates an iconic merlion for National Day Parade celebrations at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

For the PyeongChang Winter Olympics 2018, Singapore’s last two National Day Parades and several other high-profile events, swarms of drones have taken to the sky for shows that had spectators clicking and sharing away. Natalie Cheung, general manager for drone light shows at Intel Drone Group, gives us the lowdown on the tech behind it:

How do drone light shows work?

There’s one person––a pilot––who’s controlling all the drones digitally. If you have 300 drones, you don’t want 300 pilots to control the whole system. It can provide a huge potential for human error. That’s why we have a digital platform and all the operations and animation are pre-programmed, so that we have detailed measurements to allow for a safe flight. We really think drones can revolutionise how we look at entertainment.

How can clients be creative?

We can create a very unique show because of three factors: One is the movement of each drone and that we can create different colour combinations. The second is the music accompanying each show. And the third is the number of drones. There’s so much creative potential when you’re lighting up the sky, there are a lot of effects.

Are clients able to incorporate branding into these shows?

Absolutely. Displaying your logo using drones is a unique way to show your brand in the sky. We did a show in South Africa where instead of telling a story, they put their logo in the sky for five minutes.

What’s the biggest challenge when planning a show?

I would say the largest challenge is something we can’t control––weather. We try to analyse as much data as possible such as the weather report from the year before or even reports from the years prior. Unfortunately we can’t fly high in rain or snow.

Do you foresee drone light shows replacing fireworks?

I think there’s more opportunity than just replacing fireworks. What’s really interesting about drones is that they travel around the world with us. So the benefit of drones is that they’re completely reusable––you can fly a show at 7pm, again at 9pm and then at 11pm. You don’t have that advantage with fireworks.


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