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How Intel arranged the largest drone show at the opening of the Olympics in Pyeongchang

At the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang on February 9, Intel set a world record for the number of simultaneously launched drones. In the air were 1218 drones, which were synchronized and flew by a pre-programmed program.

The company broke its own record, set in 2016. Then in Germany, Intel simultaneously launched 500 drones.




The drone show, shown during the live broadcast, was actually recorded in advance. Intel said that it was going to show a “live” version during the opening of the Olympics, but at the last moment there were “unpredictable logistics problems” and aired on the air. Nevertheless, the guests of the Games are going to show the version of the show with the participation of 300 drones during the ceremony of awarding medals.

Perhaps this was due to the hacker attack , which became known on February 11. On the territory of the Olympic stadium did not work Wi-Fi, and there were interruptions in the work of the press center and the drones recording the ceremony.

About the details of the preparation of the show, Intel said in a conversation with Wired. Drones showed figures related to the Winter Olympics, for example, a snowboarder in a jump turned into Olympic rings. This required very careful programming of UAVs and four billion LED combinations on their case.

The chief manager of Intel on drone-show Natalie Cheung told that to create an exact version of a snowboarder from 1200 drones, the animation team used photographs of real athletes in jumps, “to get the perfect contour and shape in the sky.”

 The actions of thousands of drones to the team was as easy to synchronize as the three hundred – all thanks to the Shooting Star platform. After the animators moved the snowboarder and the rings into a 3D model, each drone received its own designation and became an “air pixel” that embodied a voluminous image in the sky.

During the show, each drone operates independently of the others and exchanges information only with the central computer. Before launch, the system distributes the “roles” of unmanned vehicles based on the remaining charge and the quality of the GPS signal reception.

Drones are very limited in time and are tied to the service station. Usually they can stay in the air for a maximum of 20 minutes, and they can only be launched near the Intel team.

The weather became a separate problem during the preparation for the drone show. Team Intel had to modify the design of drones, because in Pyeongchang in winter it is cold and extremely windy, and Shooting Star drones weigh only 226 grams. To make sure that everything works, the engineers pre-tested in Finland.

The company plans to use divisions of drones not only for performances, but also for professional activities. For example, a synchronized detachment of drones can be used for rescue and search operations. However, this may require a revision of the regulators’ requirements.

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