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Intel breaks drone record with Olympics display with promise of more to come

Computing giant debuts spectacular airborne lightshow to kick off major Olympic sponsorship

OlympicsThe drone swarm formed animated airborne images Credit: Intel Corporation
Television viewers worldwide got a glimpse of the capabilities of the latest generation of compact UAVs during coverage of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

A light show put on by a coordinated swarm of 1218 Intel Shooting Star drones formed an animated display, setting a Guinness world record for “the most unmanned aerial vehicles airborne simultaneously”. The swarm will also be in action throughout the games during medal ceremonies, which will include animations of the appropriate sports, and Olympic-related logos including the familiar linked rings.

OlympicsEach individual Shooting Star drone weighs the same as a volleyball Credit: Intel Corporation
Intel was also the previous record holder, with a flight of 500 drones in Germany in 2016. To ensure the show was perfect for the opening ceremony, the flight was pre-recorded in this case.

Intel is now a main sponsor of the Olympics, with a deal running through to 2024. The Shooting Star display is the first fruit and the visible marker of that relationship, but the company’s plans for drones are far-reaching and include flying cameras to help provide a virtual reality view of various sports, and using sensor-bearing drones to help measure athletes’ performances. Shooting Star drones are specifically designed for entertainment light shows, providing a more coordinated alternative to fireworks displays.

OlympicsOlympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 Opening Ceremony (Credit: Intel Corporation)
The drones are quadcopters made from flexible plastics and polymer foams, weighing 330g and including an array of LEDs that the company claims can form more than four billion colour combinations in the sky. A Shooting Star swarm operates from an animation interface that calculates the number of drones needed to form an image and formulates the fastest path to create that image in the sky. An entire swarm can be flown by one pilot operating a single computer.

“We are honoured to have Intel drones playing several roles at the Olympic Games,” said Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager, Intel Drone Group. “Not unlike the athletes competing in the events, we continue to push to innovate and develop the drone technologies that inspire people all over the world.”

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