There were a total of 300 drones accompanying Lady Gaga's halftime show during the Super Bowl, making for a spectacular light show. They hovered, glided, and zoomed across multiple positions mid-air, and they lit up, showing the American flag, the Pepsi logo, and more.
Shooting Stars Light Up The Halftime Show
These drones, for the uninitiated, are actually called Shooting Stars, and they're made by Intel, powered by Intel technology, and this isn't the first time they've been shown off — they were previously used in a holiday show at Disney World. These drones can flash lights, flock the sky, and be programmed to work following a certain choreography, all the while being controlled with a single computer.
These "quadcopter" drones can create more than 4 billion color combinations, according to Geekwire
"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," Josh Walden, general manager of Intel's New Technology Group, said in a statement.
It's All In The Software
This comes as Intel's latest effort to take drones from individuals into fleets. The company says that while there were only 300 drones that populated the sky during the halftime show, 10,000 drones may actually be controlled at a time. One can only imagine the light show possible from such a number.
The underpinning magic to Intel's Shooting Star project is a desktop software suite programs. The routes to be taken by each drone is individually pre-programmed, and each drone can do a number of behaviors. The drones have no form for drone-to-drone communication, and they aren't embedded with any particular hardware to avoid collision. The bulk of the work is entirely thanks to the software.
The drones are relatively simple, only weighing around 280 grams, no heavier than a pound. The housing is made of Styrofoam, and shielding it are simple metal cages around the props. The drones are designed to be assembled in less than 15 minutes, and Intel builds them in a German facility. The drones contain no screws, and in fact, every part is designed to snap together snugly. Finally, on the bottom of the drone is a large, multicolored LED light.
Intel first showcased the technology in the United States by virtue of a collaboration with Disney, as previously mentioned. The drones are laid on each launchpad, distanced a single inch apart. The drones rest in divots designed to cup the LED housing, which also features the charging contacts for the drones. Then they are released all at once, levitating slowly at first, akin to fireflies at night, and then being sent off above, initiating their pre-programmed choreography.
Intel has been laboring on this technology for at least two years now. In late 2015, the company collaborated with a coterie of artists and tech researchers in a laboratory in Austria, sending 100 drones up toward the sky. Then, even before the Disney World show, Intel showcased a new generation of the platform, sending 500 drones all at once.
The Future Of Intel's Shooting Stars
Intel has a future in mind for its drones: to handle tasks using a fleet of them, although specific metrics of such a prospect remains unclear at present. Perhaps something along the lines of Amazon's drone delivery service? But more than commerce, the drones could be used in times of need. For example, search and rescue operations may be aided by Intel's fleet of Shooting Stars, delivering goods to areas normally unreachable in times of tragic disasters.
For now, however, the drones are great spectacles. Hopefully that changes sooner rather than later.