PATENT: Disney to Use Drones for Night-Time Entertainment

Drone controlled marionetteEveryone knows drones are where it’s at. Whether you’re looking to deliver packages to customers’ doorsteps, target and destroy someone from thousands of miles away or looking to entertain thousands of guests, you’ll need an army of drones.

Thanks to a series of recently published patent applications, we now have an idea of where Walt Disney Imagineering is headed with future plans for night-time entertainment to take place over lagoons (which are specifically mentioned in the applications), although the technology can be applied virtually anywhere.

While ‘Fantasmic!’ at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios as well as Disney California Adventure’s ‘World of Color’ all use fountains to project virtual screens upon which images are projected, the patent applications find several faults, including the inability to quickly update the images for seasonal purposes and the height of the projected water screens is too limiting. In addition, fireworks are considered too unreliable when it comes to consistent performances.

The answer, according to Disney, is what they are calling ‘flixels,’ or ‘floating pixels’ (pixel itself is a combination of picture and element). By using an army of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs),  each carrying a payload such as a projection screen and/or light diffuser, the UAVs are either able to act on downloaded scripts, be controlled by a master, or autonomously work together to deliver an interactive image in three dimensional space.

The image above, which features a massive Jack Skellington puppet, shows that there’s more up Disney’s sleeve when it comes to employing the drones. An additional patent application describes how the UAVs’ payloads could actually be a large marionette puppet, allowing UAVs to manipulate the puppet by working together.

The three published applications are as follows:

  • Aerial Display System with Floating Pixels
  • Aerial Display System with Floating Projection Screens
  • Aerial Display System with Marionettes Articulated and Supported by Airborne Devices

All three are credited to by Clifford Wong, James Alexander Stark and Robert Scott Trowbridge. Interestingly enough, Trowbridge had previously worked on the ‘Flying Entertainment Vehicle’ patent /aka/ the Fantasyland dragon.

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