China nabs world record for biggest drone display, but it’s a bit of a mess

Drones are flying their way into lots of industries, transforming the way businesses conduct their operations and helping companies work more efficiently.

Already well established in the movie business, the remotely controlled flying machines are also being used in agriculture, maintenance, and police work. Delivery services are a target, too, with Amazon and others keen to use the technology to launch full-fledged operations as soon as regulators allow.

But how about drones for entertainment, as in “drone shows” for audiences? It’s already happening, with Intel having partnered with Disney to produce night-time aerial displays in Florida using hundreds of drones sparkling with LED lights.

Another company, Ehang — better known for its larger “flying taxi” than its smaller Ghostdrone quadcopter — is also getting into the game, and this week nabbed the world record from Intel for the most drones flying in a single display.

But according to a report from the South China Morning Post, some of the drones refused to play ball.

China-based Ehang deployed its fleet of 1,374 Ghostdrones at a Labour Day show in the city of Xi’an, about 500 miles south-west of Beijing. Besides entertaining hordes of spectators, the aim was also to beat Intel’s record when it flew 1,218 drones at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in February.

Ehang’s display lasted 13 minutes and spread across a distance of more than 0.6 miles (1 km). It looks spectacular in the company’s just-released video (above), but the Post pointed out that some of the maneuvers appeared to fail.

It seems the computer-driven control hub back on the ground suffered a glitch, resulting in about half the drones failing to fly into position, messing up the creation of various Chinese characters. Footage from another video (below) appears to show at least one of the quadcopters tumbling to the ground during the display.

Despite the mishaps, Guinness World Records was still happy to award the record to Ehang for its efforts, while the company is said to be preparing a statement to explain what caused the drones to fly out of sync.

Ehang had been building up to its record attempt. In March last year, the company launched 1,000 of its drones in Guangzhou as part of Chinese Lantern Festival celebrations.

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