Stars of Superbowl 2017 : Digital technology and Drones

Entertainment generally leads in defining requirements for cutting edge technologies. Drones and innovative use of digital technology were this year’s Superbowl stars – literally ! A Wired article explores the behind-the scenes story of 300 drones flying in formation to entertain millions.

Lady Gaga’s Halftime Show Drones Have a Bright Future

THE BEST SUPER Bowl halftime shows leave indelible memories, be it a notorious wardrobe malfunction, that goofy Left Shark, or every last second of Beyoncé’s two appearances. It’s too soon to say whether anything Lady Gaga did tonight will resonate, but at least she offered something new: An army of dancing drones, ducking and dodging over the Houston skyline, transforming from stars to a fluttering flag.

It’s probably first time you’ve seen 300 drones flying in formation, but it’s almost certainly not the last. The technology underpinning the Intel Shooting Star drone system is fascinating in and of itself, but its potential applications are even more so. The same drones that accompanied Lady Gaga will one day revolutionize search-and-rescue, agriculture, halftime shows, and more.

Drone Show

Performing for a global audience of about 160 million or so people represents this drone platform’s biggest stage, but Intel has done this before. The company’s Shooting Star drone squad recently finished a three-week run at Disney World, and last year 500 synchronized drones flew in Sydney, setting the highly specific world record for “most unmanned aerial vehicles airborne simultaneously.”

Intel Superbowl 2017

Red Zones and Red Tape

Student of Super Bowl security measures and FAA regulations may by this point have some questions. The government strictly forbids drones within 34.5 miles of Houston’s NRG Stadium, after all, and the FAA limits on how high drones can fly in any circumstance, let alone above 80,000 or so people. How on earth did Intel get away with it?

The short answer is, it taped the show earlier this week.

 The long answer is worth exploring though, because it provides insight into the evolution of Shooting Star system and where it might go from here.

Preparations kicked off in early December, when Intel’s engineers started wading into the mind-numbing logistics of choreographing 300 dancing drones. Do they fly inside the stadium? How are they integrated into what Lady Gaga is doing onstage? Is stadium’s domed roof open or closed? “The whole halftime is a huge execution monster of an exercise,” says Anil Nanduri, who leads Intel’s drone efforts.

(read rest of the article on Wired)

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