Dinner Table Conversation: What Can Drones Do … at the Olympics?

February 16, 2018

The Opening Ceremony of the Olympics is always an epic show, and the 2018 Winter Olympics at PyeongChang were no different. Adding to the spectacular show of dances, performances, and music was something a little different this year. Intel, a company that makes computer chips, choreographed a dance of 1,200 drones in the night air to create one of the most wow-worthy moments.

Much like the sequence in Finding Nemo (remember when Dory asked for directions from other fish and they had her guess answers by forming shapes?), the drones performed complicated maneuvers to create shapes like the Olympic rings and a dove! A great replacement to polluting fireworks, huh?

In case you didn’t know, a drone is an aircraft that is controlled remotely. Drones that are used for fun (you might see them in parks) have a small range and are controlled by owners to do interesting things like take photos from up in the sky. But the original purpose of drones is bigger—they can be used to navigate to places that are hard to access, drop supplies to remote places in case of natural disasters, and so much more! Intel, the company behind the show at the Olympics, has been trying to improve their drone technology even as they demonstrate amazing visual effects.

Curious about what it took to pull off the drone show at the Olympics? Here are some details that could blow your mind (they sure blew ours!):

-There were four billion color combinations possible with the drones, although only a fraction were actually used during the show.

-Software showed how the formations would eventually look, and it wasn’t until much later that these formations were actually tested on flying drones.

-No two drones existed in the same location when the performance took place.

-Each drone is a foot long and can fly in formation for up to twenty minutes.

-The drone show was not really live in front of the PyeongChang audience. In fact, it was pre-recorded for the TV audience. This was always the plan, although there was an idea of doing a live show if the weather permitted. You see, harsh winter conditions can impact the lithium batteries and reduce their power—something to keep in mind when doing a winter show.