Photo: Coachella Shooting Star Drones, Intel video
The IoT took center stage at the 2017 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival when 300 synchronized Shooting Star drones illuminated the night sky in a dazzling performance for concert attendees. Intel designed the drones, animation and music, and worked with festival director Bill Fold and Golden Voice event production to prepare for the two weekends of Coachella. The drones took on a variety of shapes, including palm trees, a moving windmill and a Ferris wheel, among other 3D colorful depictions.
Presented by HP, the Intel-powered drone light show first appeared at Coachella after indie pop band The xx finished its set, and just before Radiohead took the stage. The drones flew again behind the main stage before Lady Gaga’s performance.
“Coachella is two weekends full of different kinds of music, abstract art and the latest technology, making it the perfect event for drone light shows,” said Natalie Cheung, General Manager of Intel drone light shows, in an article in Intel iQ.
Drones Sync to the Beat
The Intel Shooting Star drone is categorized as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and it is specifically designed for entertainment purposes, including festivals and entertainment events. This Intel quadcopter drone is built with safety as top priority, according to Intel.
Each Shooting Star drone weighs approximately 280 grams (a little bit less than 10 oz.), and it has no camera. The drones are comprised of foam and mendable plastic. They don’t contain any screws, but they do have protective cages above the drone propellers. Every drone contains LED lights, and these lights can project more than four billion color combinations. In terms of aesthetics, these drones are designed to create visual displays that touch on unique ways to address the audience’s perception of depth and size.
According to Intel software engineer Tobi Gurdan, for Coachella the team designed geometric shapes, including a 3D pyramid and a floating volumetric waveform. “The depth is emphasized by moving and rotating lights. At Coachella, the whole show is synchronized to music by the beat, and we included exploding spheres in sparkling colors. But rather than the lights fading out, they come to a halt and suddenly implode back again. Fireworks certainly can’t do that.”
As with all drone swarms—and especially ones flying above large crowds—safety is critical. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provided Intel with permission and permits to fly the drones in observance of specific aviation and safety-based guidelines. The FAA has primary authority concerning the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems or drones as the equivalent of typical aircraft carriers. This means all drone pilots must abide by the same FAA airspace regulations as that for all other aircraft carrier pilots.
Intel iQ reports that the team for the Shooting Star drones at this event was able to receive a waiver, Part 107, that consists of an additional subset of rules for the commercial purposes of drones. Clay Coleman, one of the Intel Shooting Star pilots, stated that “based on several factors and proven safety mitigations we have in place, we are allowed to fly up to 400 feet above ground level, fly multiple drones per pilot and fly at night.”
Setting Records in the Sky
Intel has been producing drone shows at several large events, including this year’s Super Bowl, Australia’s Vivid Lights and Ideas Festival, and Coca-Cola Mexico’s Caravan of Lights. Each show is customized to create a particular audience experience. Intel drones originally took flight in 2015 in Germany, and they have since set two different Guinness World Records for the Most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles airborne at once, which were 100 and then 500.