Drone shows: an affordable, future-driven solution for the entertainment industry

Drone shows are the new big trend in the entertainment business — this is something that everyone familiar with the industry is well aware of. What many don’t seem to realize is how affordable drone shows can be — you can enhance your portfolio with futuristic aerial performances with as few as 20 copters.
 

Giant companies create bombastic light shows with hundreds of drones, but that doesn’t mean you can’t impress your audience with fewer. Just think of 20 bright LED dots dancing completely in sync and forming intricate figures in the night sky. Or imagine enhancing a traditional firework display with drones — whether glowing lights, firework carriers, smoke generators or all of the above at once!
 

Kickstarting your drone show career is really easy — you just need suitable drone mission planning software, a fleet of twenty drones and a dedicated team of three people trained to create impressive choreography and manage the show itself. On average, it takes three months to produce your first drone show from scratch. Let’s break down the process.
 

The software

Once you have decided to create your first drone show, questions will start popping into your head: questions like ‘how do I manage the whole thing?’, ‘how do I keep my drones from flying into each other?’, ‘how do I ensure audience safety?’ etc. There is a single answer to all of these: you just need the right software.
 

Drone Show Software by SPH Engineering is the only commercially available solution developed specifically for outdoor drone show management. It has an intuitive interface allowing you to control a swarm of up to several hundred drones on a 3D map with high precision and uncompromising safety.
 

To make sure that no one gets hurt and drones don’t get damaged during the show, Drone Show Software has a range of valuable features. You can prevent your drones from accidentally being damaged by running a SITL test of your future show — a comprehensive virtual simulation of the show routine allowing you to make the necessary adjustments to the flightpaths and to the take-off and landing positions of individual drones.
 

Audience safety is secured by four independent features designed by the SPH Engineering team. First, there is a geofence preventing drones to fly beyond a certain perimeter. Second, the control interface allows the operator to land any drone at any time. Third, an independent Red Button app using a separate computer and radio channel enables the operator to interrupt the show and land all the drones. Fourth, a backup human pilot can manually land any drone when needed using a remote controller.
 

The training

The Drone Show Software package includes mandatory training in order to ensure the operators maintain the highest performance and safety standards. SPH Engineering offers a hands-on five-day course tailored to the business needs of the customer. “It came as a total surprise to me that managing a show of 20+ drones is not rocket science at all. I conducted my first show within a couple of months of the training course and since then drone shows have become part of my daily routine,” says Simon Lukasik, owner of the company Droneland.pl, which organized the first-ever drone show in Poland.
 


 

The drones

Drone Show Software supports a range of drones from certified partners featuring Pixhawk autopilot. If you’re looking for custom configuration drones with specific payloads to use on your shows, you can order them from a Drone Show Software certified producer. SPH Engineering offers certification and Drone Show Software compatibility testing for clients assembling their own drones.
 

The show

When it comes to the coordinated movement of multiple drones, no improvisation is possible, so every motion has to be carefully planned using 3D animation software. This is the most creative part of the process, and it’s on this that the success of your show will depend. The biggest technical challenge in creating the animation is setting the right speed and maintaining the minimum distance between the drones at all times. Needless to say, it is also crucial to ensure that the choreography can be enjoyed equally well from different places in the venue.
 

It is a mistake to think that the more drones you have, the more impressive your show will be. What will truly make the audience go “wow” is the choreography, not the fleet of drones themselves. What it’s all about is the skillful use of musical rhythm, light effects, and intricate morphing techniques, not the mere fact of having 100 drones hovering in the air. You could even say that if the choreography is great, less (drones) is more (excitement).
 

The next step is to “teach” the drones your animated choreography. A special Drone Show Software plugin ensures the smooth transfer of choreography files from most 3D animation apps. After you have uploaded the animation and run the SITL simulation, it’s time to finally hit the actual terrain and carry out a rehearsal. When all the drones are positioned on a level surface in accordance with the planned mission, the drone show operator can assign the programmed flight paths. Using real-time kinematic positioning technology (RTK) GPS, the operator controls the whole show from the site using a laptop, an RTK GPS base station, and wireless routers — it’s as simple as that.
 

Now the operator can set the time to begin the show and… ready, steady, arm the motors and show off!
 

Whether you’re a drone service provider or an event management company or are involved in the entertainment industry in some other way, adding drone shows to your portfolio is a sure-fire way to make yourself stand out from the crowd. When it comes to getting a “wow” from your audiences, there’s no other way to do it so easily.
 


 

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