Drone the Night: How to Put on a Drone Show

4 minutes

At Illuminate, we fielded plenty of questions about our powerful solutions and how your team can work more efficiently. We also had plenty of operations professionals ask us about one of the stars of our user conference—the drone show. We spoke to Martin Codd and Ethan Delinski of Pixis, who did incredible work creating the show at Illuminate, to understand more about this new wave of entertainment.

What is a drone show?

A drone show is a form of live entertainment where the stars of the show soar through the sky. Flying drones synchronize their movements, incorporating changing lights and audio entertainment to captivate audiences. Drone shows are alternatives to pyrotechnics and are seen as safer, more efficient, and environmentally friendly alternative to fireworks.

Want to watch one for yourself? Watch the highlights from Illuminate 2023 to see a glimpse of the drones in all their glory.

What are the benefits of a drone show?

Fireworks spark nostalgia for many of us. For others, including our furry friends, the loud explosions can be upsetting. A drone show not only doesn’t feature loud noises that can cause fear, but as Martin explained, there are several benefits when comparing with pyrotechnics, including:

  • Storytelling. In a drone show, a seemingly endless array of shapes can be formed in the sky. Paired with changing lights, audio, and video, this allows for improved storytelling ability for event professionals.
  • Less regulations/guidelines. In many states, fireworks are illegal, while others may face strict regulations. Plus, the explosive nature of pyrotechnic shows require a “fallout zone,” which drone shows do not require. A small landing zone (five feet per drone) is all that’s required for the drones to land.
  • Inclusive. As stated before, drone shows don’t inherently alienate anyone. Veterans with PTSD, those with sensory issues, and dogs can all watch along and enjoy the show. Plus, drone shows can be more affordable than their pyrotechnic counterparts.
  • Sustainability. According to Martin, the carbon footprint of a drone show is near zero. Fireworks cause air pollution and the elements used to create the beautiful colors pollute both our lungs and our environment.

How do drone shows work?

While you may not be able to simple purchase a few drones and create your own show, the process is fairly straightforward. The morning of the show, drones are tested to ensure they are all operational. The drones are controlled by a computer simulation. Each drone is outfitted with two systems to receive information for redundancy. Once the show starts, the software sends encrypted messages to the drones and coordinates the required movements and light changes.

Speaking to industry experts who have put together shows for some of the world’s largest sporting leagues and events, we wanted to understand what advice they had for others. Their top three drone show tips were:

  • Location, location, location. Picking a spot to host your drone show is the best place to start. Pixis can fly in Class G airspace simply by issuing a notice regarding their show in restricted airspace. With their average show featuring 200 to 300 drones (and steadily increasing), you will want to pick a location where the show is safe, not a distraction to drivers, and can land the drones safely when done. The process to acquire permits for drones is easier and cheaper than fireworks.
  • Choose a partner wisely. Just like your trust in Brightly for your asset, maintenance, and operations software, you’ll want to look for a trusted partner in the space. A reputable company like Pixis has a waiver with the FAA to fly up to 1,000 drones and has systems in place to ensure your show goes off without a hitch.
  • Tell your story. As Martin said, “A drone show is not just images. It’s a narrative story. Make sure you tell your story in the show and then have a great time.” Future progress, including indoor shows and the use of heavy-lift drones to integrate lasers, smoke, and other special effects, will only help the storytelling experience.

Managing events can be a tedious process—trust us, we know. The next time you’re throwing a large event and want to make attendees say wow, consider adding a drone show to the festivities. They’re the smart and sustainable entertainment of the future.

To learn more about Pixis, please visit