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A drone Light Show swarm forming a heart shape in an evening sky

Editorial Feature


DRONE LIGHT SHOWS: The new frontier of fireworks display

Words By: EuroUSC Italia

Over the past decade, traditional fireworks displays have been overcome by the arrival of drones. This innovation is known as “drone light show” and it is possible thanks to a swarm of drones equipped with multi-coloured lights capable to fly together and reproduce spectacular images and text messages. The purpose is to entertain and surprise by producing dazzling moving effects in the sky.

The idea of flying coordinated drones was conceived by Vijay Kumar, from the University of Pennsylvania, and was presented in a TED Talk in 2012, while the first application in a light show was carried out in Austria in 2013. From that moment on shows have emerged all over the world and have become more and more suggestive. For example, the opening ceremony of the  Olympics 2020 saw a fleet of 1824 drones flying in the skies above the city of Tokyo and reproducing a floating sphere in the sky that ultimately morphed into the moon and planet earth (see the video here). Even the themes presented gradually turned into real stories: in 2021 in Tianjin (China) 600 drones performed in 26 minutes to tell the Van Gogh story and its art. Glorious paintings were recreated including The starry night, Sunflowers and Self-portrait. This remarkable operation achieved the Guinness World Records title for the longest animation performed by UAS.

Why a drone light show

Drones can produce a greater range of effects than fireworks, such as 3D imagery, and offer the possibility to customize the show. Furthermore, their high technological potential makes them a constantly evolving tool. However, the advantages are not only related to their astonishing effects and future implementations: a drone light show is less polluting than fireworks as it doesn’t produce garbage, nor dust, or deafening sounds. For these reasons, this solution is often exploited for different type of events: inaugurations for sport events, launch of new products, exhibitions, weddings, birthdays, etc.

Heart shaped drone swarm formation

How to carry out a drone light shows safely and by the rules

In Europe, drone operations for light shows fall into the Specific Category: this involves the need to get an operational authorisation from the Competent Aviation Authority supported by a SORA-based risk analysis. The SORA identifies applicable safety requirements related to the minimum distance from the public, the allowed weather conditions, the technical characteristics of the software and hardware, etc.. Ensuring a good safety level is the key for the success of any drone light show.At the same time, choreographies for drone light shows are manually created using a series of software translating flight commands in a synchronized flight: there is an extensive amount of effort that goes into project management to ensure an impeccable coordination.

How can EuroUSC Italia help you

EuroUSC Italia offers consultancy to develop safety risk assessment according to the SORA methodology, for drone light shows. Starting from the drafting and revision of the Operator’s manual, EuroUSC Italia guides the drone light show operator in carrying out the SORA risk analysis and submit the authorization application to the Competent Aviation Authority. In addition, EuroUSC supports the operator in following up the application until the authorisation is obtained for companies, public administrations or private individuals who want to organise this type of show, EuroUSC Italia can help in identifying the right operators and support it during the planning and execution of the show, by assuring all applicable regulations are complied with.

“Often drone operators focus mainly on setting the drones’ swarm trajectory to have faultless colour effects, shape and choreography. But defining and implementing adequate safety requirements is even more important to avoid incidents that could harm people or just kill your reputation” declares Sixtine Marlois, Show Designer of Magic Drone “EuroUSC Italia helped us in taking care of all these aspects and carrying out our shows with a clean safety record.”

 


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