In a way, Lady Gaga's Super Bowl show sums up both the plight and potential of drones just perfectly. As the singer belted out a quick rendition of "This Land is Your Land," and leapt onto the stage from the stadium's upper level (as you do), a fleet of red and blue drones arranged themselves into the shape of the American flag in the background. As spectacular as all this was, current regulations demand that such aerial displays come pre-packaged, with FAA rules forcing organizers to film the light show prior to the event.
So much of the focus around the legalities of the drone industry centers on how soon they'll be delivering things, but the regulations affect a variety of other applications, too. While relaxed rules have paved the way for photographers, surveyors and realtors to get in on the action, flying more than one drone at a time, flying over people, and flying at nighttime remain illegal, therefore making a number of applications impossible.
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With that said, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has an exemption process whereby it grants operators permission to circumvent these rules, with Intel being one of the beneficiaries. This has cleared the way for the company to show off its LED-equipped Shooting Star drones in spectacular style, setting 500 in a choreographed, record-breaking flight in November and using them to light up Disney World this holiday season.
Exemption or not, some areas still remain out of bounds – case in point, Houston's NRG Stadium, which hosted Super Bowl 51. Intel may have something of a track record with its choreographed drone flights, but the FAA wasn't about to let it unleash its machines in the vicinity of 70,000 football fans.
So, as reported by Wired, Intel and the NFL filmed the 300 drones in action prior to the event. This involved the aforementioned backdrop to Lady Gaga's intro, followed by a separate 10-second commercial in which they were arranged into a Pepsi logo. Intel found a clever workaround to get its drones some prime-time exposure, but you can't help but wonder if by the time Super Bowl 52 or 53 rolls around we'll be treated to a live act.