Sydney hosts New Year drone shows Melbourne lost to COVID-19

Sydney drone show

Disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic may have caused Melbourne’s planned New Year’s Eve drone show to be canceled, but Sydney found a work-around to the complications it encountered to host an Intel orchestrated UAV performance purported to be the largest ever in the southern hemisphere.

As reported previously by DroneDJ, officials in Melbourne were forced to pull the plug on their New Year’s Eve drone show after quarantine restrictions and delayed deliveries of essential material left aerial arts company Celestial with insufficient time to prepare its 350 vehicles for the event. That decision also nixed the city’s claim of playing host to what was to be Australia’s largest-ever UAV spectacle. It turns out its bragging rights would have been short-lived anyway, because its neighbor to the north wound up featuring a 500-drone Intel show as part of its Elevate Sydney festival that ran from January 1-6.

But not before it had to iron out a few wrinkles of its own.

According to a report in the local Newcastle paper, a city about 120 km north of Sydney, organizers of the multi-night Elevate Sydney celebration had to recruit a local drone pilot training business to usher Intel operators through Australia’s rather exacting certification process.

“The Intel guys have said it is one of the more challenging regimes they’ve had to go through,” Ross Anderson, managing director of the Aviassist training company hired to help, told the Newcastle Herald. “Intel works all over the world and have piloted shows like the Tokyo Olympics. This was their first time doing a display in Australia, so they had to get accredited here.”

Anderson said the team went through a five-day course regime to pass their Remote Operating Pilot License, which permitted them to legally oversee the 11-minute show. During those synchronized flights, Intel’s 500 drones created images of flowering plants, a cockatoo, and a woman surfing.

One payoff for helping the show to go on was Anderson getting an up-close, personal, and backstage view of what went into the event. One thing he learned was – the newly minted piloting certificates notwithstanding – the performance was largely automated.

“It’s mostly pre-programmed and all 500 drones were operated from a single laptop,” he said, echoing Intel’s own descriptions of their shows as built around tech requiring two technicians – one of whom is backup. “All the drones show up in different colors on the laptop. Green is all good and yellow means there’s something you need to look at. Red is bad.”

The Elevate Sydney performance was further facilitated, Anderson said, by a lot of the aerial content being ordered up by event officials themselves.

“The display is designed by event organizers and brought to life by Intel,” he said. “Some of the best bits were the moving displays, like the flying cockatoo and surfer girl.”

COVID-19 willing, perhaps next year will be Melbourne’s turn to light up the sky in record fashion, possibly with 501 drones.

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