With a dazzling array of lights, pyrotechnics, glow sticks and FX, Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl Halftime show may have been one of the most elaborate and memorable to date. The show created a unique, never-before-seen experience for a live Super Bowl show, although not all of it was really live.
As reported by CNET, Gaga’s jump from the NRG stadium in Houston, along with a brightly glowing display of buzzing drones overhead had to be taped before Super Bowl Sunday due to FAA safety regulations. On the actual game day there was a ban of drone use within 34.5 miles of the stadium. Intel, the company behind the drone technology, also cited potential weather concerns as a reason for taping the sequence in advance rather than doing it live. CNET points out that anyone “shelling out thousands of dollars for their Super Bowl ticket didn't actually see the drone show.”
Live or not, the halftime show featured spectacular 300 brightly lit drones with synchronized dancing and movement to form an American flag, as well as the Intel and Pepsi logos across the sky. The Shooting Star drones according to Intel are “a new type of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), specifically designed for entertainment purposes such as festivals and entertainment events. The purpose-built quadcopter drone is built with safety in mind and equipped with LED lights that can create over 4 billion color combinations and easily be programmed for any animation.”
These quadcopter drones have also been used at a number of events before, such as Disney’s Starbright Holiday Show, the longest light show of its kind, requiring 300 drones to remain in the air for 12 minutes, featured nightly for eight weeks at Disney World in Orlando Florida. Last year in Sydney, Intel broke the world record for the most drones flying simultaneously with 500 Shooting Star drones lighting the sky for the 2016 Vivid Sydney event accompanied by the Sydney Youth Orchestra.
In a press release, Josh Walden, senior VP and general manager of Intel’s New Technology Group explained what they hoped to achieve for the Super Bowl Halftime show: “Lady Gaga and the Super Bowl creative team wanted to pull off something that had never been done before and we were able to combine Intel drone innovation with her artistry to pull off a truly unique experience.” He continued explaining that “the potential for these light show drones is endless and we hope this experience inspires other creatives, artists and innovators to really think about how they can incorporate drone technology in new ways that have yet to even be thought of.”
In a report covering the technology, Wired reports that each foot long drone weighs a little over eight ounces, and is built out of plastic and foam for durability and accidental knocks. Wired contributor Brian Barrett writes, “They aren’t as flashy as consumer quadcopters, which is just as well, because you’re not supposed to notice them. Instead, you’re supposed to notice the four billion color combinations created by the onboard LEDs, and the aerial acrobatics choreographed with meticulous coding.”
Each drone communicates with a central computer that directs the dance routine. Built-in redundancy allows a reserve unit to take over within seconds if a drone stops working during the show. The technology even has promising implications beyond entertainment, such as with search and rescue efforts. According to Anil Nanduri, General Manager of Intel’s UAV program, “I see them searching for a lost hiker with multiple drones at night with the right payloads looking for them.”