Intel’s drone boss wants to replace firework displays with drone light shows

Intel has ambitions to replace firework displays with drone light shows, following a successful outdoor display in Las Vegas. Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Unmanned Aviation Systems, said the unmanned aerial vehicles’ ability to tell a story in the sky made them the future of “night sky entertainment.” The company successfully flew 250 of its Shooting Star drones over Las Vegas’ Bellagio fountain in a glittering light show set to Kygo’s Stargazing during the city’s annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Intel’s Shooting Star drones are lightweight and sport four rotary blades (Photo: Intel) The quadrocopter drones, which are made of flexible plastics and foam, were pre-programmed to fly in formation in time to the music as the famous fountain danced below it. They are capable of displaying more than 4bn coloured light combinations, creating animations when flown in unison. Buoyed by its successful drone light shows at last year’s Super Bowl and Coachella music festival, the company is confident they could augment, or even replace firework displays entirely. “Fireworks have been around for centuries. They create a lot of pollution and noise, but we all enjoy them,” Nanduri told i. “Drones are a digital experience in the sky which can be used anywhere, from in the middle of the desert, to over water or on top of a building.”

When flown in formation, drones can create shapes, logos and animations, weaving it into a story, he explained, calling the practice a safe form of art free from pollution.

German officials issued a warning shortly before New Year’s Eve over the 5,000 tons of fine particles (smoke or soot) expected to be dispersed from fireworks during the evening. Air pollution is responsible for 467,000 deaths across the European Union each year, according to the European Environment Agency, of which fireworks are a contributing factor.

Fireworks have been linked to increased in nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, and contain heavy metals, including aluminium, lead, copper, barium and mercury salts, which give the explosions their vibrant colour.

“For us, light shows are a way of redefining night sky entertainment. You get a lot of colour and vibrant mix of sound with fireworks, but with drones, sound can come from music. I can also augment my show with fireworks, if I want to,” Nanduri continued. “Every night you can give a new experience, it’s all programmable. It’s all touch-of-a-button. There’s no human controlling it, other than when you first launch it.” “It’s about acceptance, whether people want fireworks or not. But from an environmental and safety standpoint towards explosives, this is a much more amazing way of experiencing that.”

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