In this year’s Super Bowl halftime performance, superstar Lady Gaga sang “This Land is Our Land” in front of a fleet of 300 Intel Shooting Star drones. Considering the audience of about 160 million people, this performance marks the most mainstream drone demonstration to date.
Intel’s lightweight quadcopters briefly sparkled, swirled, and swarmed behind Gaga. They eventually formed a red, white, and blue rendition of the American flag above NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. Fox showed the drones again after the full halftime performance, creating the Pepsi logo and then reassembling to form the Intel logo.
News of the drone performance leaked the weekend of the big game, which led those familiar with drone safety and regulations to speculate as to how the stunt would be executed — the FAA had already announced a 34.5-mile radius of drone restrictions around the stadium. Would Intel fly the drones inside a closed-roof stadium? Would staff erect netting to protect the crowds? How would Intel pull off this first-of-its-kind stunt?
— Niles T. House (@Niles74House) February 4, 2017
As it turns out, Intel performed the aerial drone show earlier that week — the footage that aired during the game was prerecorded. Flying the drones before the big game helped Intel adhere to federal standards and maintain safety at the event.
Some viewers felt as though this news was more than a little bit of a letdown, especially considering the fact that Intel has flown large drone fleets many times before. Even Intel’s industry clout and history of safe, standardized performances wasn’t enough to secure the ability to fly the drones live. This seemed to be yet another sign of what some see as a slow-moving, safety-obsessed industry.
If it wasn’t live it was just click bait. 🙁 https://t.co/Z8uYTGnLsU
— Patrick Egan (@TheDroneDealer) February 6, 2017
Those concerns are valid. But to the general public, this was perhaps the first time they had seen a positive application of drones. Seeing UAVs in the most-watched TV event of the year is a big deal and a major accomplishment. So who cares if the performance wasn’t live?
— Fred Nelson (@Fred_Nelson_) February 6, 2017
— M_J (@Mandeepjaiman) February 6, 2017
It’s true that the industry is in a perpetual state of small steps. But companies like Intel toil behind the scenes to adhere to government regulations, develop safe and innovative technology, and create operational standards to make those small steps possible. To dismiss the Super Bowl performance as just another Intel light show would be a disservice to the drone industry.
Was it, admittedly, a little bit of a letdown to hear that Intel’s performance wasn’t live? Yes. But it was still a remarkable feat, and we can hope that it’s a sign of bigger, better, drone-ier times ahead.
Featured image: Intel
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