Intel gives fireworks a run for their money with a 500-drone ‘shooting star’ show

We already know that Disney is exploring the idea of using LED-laden drones to perform nighttime entertainment shows, so might it use a new purpose-built quadcopter from Intel to make it happen?

The company better known for computer chips than flying machines showed off its new “Shooting Star” drone – or 500 of them to be precise – in a video (above) posted recently on YouTube.

Setting a new Guinness World Record for having the most drones airborne at any one time, Intel sent its fleet of machines skyward for a special performance at a venue near Munich, Germany.

The Shooting Star drone used in the display is a small, lightweight (just 280 grams) quadcopter featuring propellor cages, presumably in case a software glitch sends the machines plummeting en masse into a watching crowd. You only have to cast your mind back to Enrique Iglesias’s drone-related mis-step to imagine the kind of carnage that could ensue.

Displays using Intel’s specially created flight control system can be operated by just one person using software on a single computer that’s controlling the performance.

“The fleet is easily programmed, assembled and operated to create beautifully choreographed images in the nighttime sky for an amazing new entertainment experience,” Intel said.

The company explains that its proprietary algorithms allow it to “automate the animation creation process by using an image and quickly calculating the number of drones needed, determining where drones should be placed and formulating the fastest path to create the image in the sky.”

Last year Intel managed to get 100 drones into the sky at the same time, with the company’s Natalie Cheung commenting that the more complex 500-drone performance would’ve been impossible to achieve then. “It’s been an amazing experience just to see the technology develop so quickly,” Cheung said.

The entertainment-focused drone system has even been green-lighted by the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing for the possibility of public displays in the U.S., something the company says it hopes to do soon.

After missing out on the mobile revolution, Intel is working hard to ensure it performs better in the fast-expanding drone market. The chipmaker has said it’s keen to position itself “at the forefront of this opportunity to increasingly integrate the computing, communications, sensor, and cloud technology required to make drones smarter and more connected.”

Its new Shooting Star copter showcases some of these technologies, with the company particularly interested in developing systems that can help drones fly with total awareness of their environment.

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