After last week revealing its Shooting Star drone in record-breaking choreographed flight, Intel is wasting little time in getting the aircraft out in front of the public eye. Attendees of Florida's Walt Disney World Resort this coming holiday season will be treated to a different kind of light show, with the Shooting Star drones forming colorful, flying animations across the night sky.
We first caught wind of Disney's interest in making drones a part of its entertainment mix back in 2014, when the company filed a series of patents outlining a few pretty out-there ideas. These included using fleets of drones to control huge marionettes, and others to carry projector screens through the air as floating displays.
The upcoming show won't be quite this far-fetched, but will fulfill one of the ideas outlined in Disney's patents, which is to basically replace fireworks with drones. Intel developed its Shooting Star drone exactly for this purpose, and has been working with Disney for more than five months in designing and testing the upcoming "Starbright Holidays" show.
The drones weigh 280 g (0.6 lb), less than a volleyball, and feature integrated LEDs that can be used to create more than 4 billion color combinations in the sky. Intel last week revealed that it had flown 500 of the drones together in choreographed flight, all controlled by one pilot using a single laptop, though for the public debut the spectacle will feature only 300.
The drones will take flight and form holiday-themed animations to a soundtrack of suitably themed holiday classics. The show will be free for all guests of Disney Springs, the shopping, dining and entertainment district of Florida's Disney World.
Having huge numbers of small drones work together in this way could have ramifications beyond simply dazzling spectators with awesome light shows. Researchers are working on developing autonomous fleets of small aircraft for the purposes of city maintenance, defense, and some have even had them build a walkable rope bridge.
If you'd like to know more about Intel's drones, you can hear from those involved in the project, in the video below.