Whether used for next-level real estate videos or futuristic food deliveries or aerial taxis, drones have staked out a place of constant fascination in our world. And last night, for the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, they soared to new heights in an impressive light show blending technology and art.
Indeed, the 1,218-drone flight was the largest display of Intel’s foot-long Shooting Star drones to date and sets a new world record for the most unmanned vehicles airborne at the same time. You might remember a similar spectacle at Lady Gaga’s 2017 Super Bowl half-time show, but that only involved about 300 drones.
While the scale of the Olympics drone show was unprecedented and surely magical to watch, the slightly less sexy fine print is that it was a prerecorded performance, mainly to avoid the harsh weather conditions expected during the opening ceremony. Intel does still plan to put on smaller, 300-drone live shows every night for the medal ceremonies.
So how does it all work? Wired explains it nicely: “After animators draw up the show using 3-D design software, each individual drone gets assigned to act as a kind of aerial pixel, filling in the 3-D image against the night sky.”
To see just what kind of images the thousand-drone squad will create, tune in to a delayed broadcast of the opening ceremony tonight at 8 p.m. ET. on NBC.