The weird and wonderful world of Disney may be about to get a little more weird and wonderful, depending on how you feel about drones. The Walt Disney Company has filed three patents suggesting it may intend to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to control giant marionettes, replace fireworks and suspend floating displays in its future theme park shows.

The first of Disney's patent applications is titled Aerial Display System With Floating Pixels and details a system consisting of a ground station module for processing flight paths of a fleet of UAVs, each of which is equipped with a propulsion device and display payload.

These payloads would include a lighting assembly with one or more color streams to form floating pixels, or "flixels" as Disney calls them. These flixels could fly in formation to create two- or three-dimensional displays that would mimic fireworks. The reusable flixels would offer a more sustainable alternative to current firework displays, with Disney claiming they would also be safer to implement.

The second patent application describes a display system made up of floating projector screens. A number of UAVs would carry a series of flexible projector screens to create floating aerial displays. The screens would include a mesh body for reduced wind resistance and would also be controlled by a fleet manager module on the ground.

Perhaps the boldest of Disney's forward-thinking plans involves a flock of UAVs tethered to huge marionettes. This system would also be controlled by a module on the ground, pulling the strings on Disney's larger-than-life puppet shows. The company's vision doesn't stop there, however, with the patent application also describing how the system would allow certain characters to literally fly through the air.

"The aerial displays described herein were designed and created because it was understood by the inventors that many characters fly in their stories (such as in a book or movie) but, prior to the inventors' aerial displays, it was typically not technically feasible to create a flying object that mimics the characters such as due to size, weight, dimensions, or other design challenges," the patent application reads.

This isn't the first time Disney has dabbled in robotics. Last year it teamed up with researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology to look at ways of making interactions between humans and robots feel more natural. As for taking its exploits to the skies, this shapes as new territory not just for Disney, but for drone applications in general. One thing is certain, if these audacious plans come to fruition it won't just be kids at Disneyland whose imaginations are captured.

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