Drones steal the show at opening ceremony

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Drones steal the show at opening ceremony

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Over 1,000 LED drones fly in formation to form the shape of a snowboarder during the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Friday. [INTEL]

First it was a dove. Then it turned into a snowboarder. As the army of over 1,000 drones headed toward the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, they scrambled into formation for the grand finale: a luminous display of five Olympic rings.

Of all the spectacles at the opening ceremony, none inspired as much awe as the meticulously coordinated movements of 1,218 light-up drones. Each was a product of Intel, a device called Shooting Star that weighs 330 grams (12 ounces), sports four propellers and comes decked with LED lights.

The company has been working on LED drones since 2014 on direct orders from its chief executive, Brian Krzanich. Intel’s Shooting Star performances have been setting Guinness World Records since 2015 when drones performed to the music of Beethoven in Hamburg, Germany.

Less than a year later, Intel sent 500 drones into the night sky in Krailling, Germany. Friday’s Olympic performance broke that record.

Impressive as they are, Intel has had to overcome several technical challenges to achieve these choreographed feats.

Natalie Cheung, the drone light show business director at Intel, said the key is to maintain enough distance between the drones to keep them from crashing into each other. Engineers and developers at Intel created their own software to control the drones using wireless communication and global positioning systems.

First, operators input the images and colors they want the drones to create. The software then automatically calculates the number of drones needed, their position and amount of time it takes for them to form the image. Afterward, a single pilot can monitor and control the drones’ performance using a single laptop.

GPS sensors and cameras installed on the drones allow them to detect the movements of other drones and execute the performance without colliding with each other.


BY KIM CHANG-WOO [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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