We have been following Disney Theme Parks’ plans to incorporate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — or drones — into its nighttime entertainment experiences for years, beginning with the initial patent application through their recent filing to actually seek FAA permission to use drones at the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts.
The filing revealed that Disney plans on using 3DR quadcopters with a ‘flixel’ payload of no more than five pounds in weight, but until now, it was more or less assumed that it would be a simple screen, consisting of simple elements that would combine with other drones’ payloads to develop a larger picture, such as what Intel had recently shown, which was effectively simulating fireworks.
But of course this is Disney and fireworks are already offered on a nightly basis, so they’re looking to up the ante even further. US Patent Application 20160033855, titled ‘PROJECTION ASSEMBLIES FOR USE WITH UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES’ was filed with the US Patent Office in July of 2014 but was just recently published. It claims that its system ‘opens new frontiers for aerial advertising capabilities and for other applications such as rapid dissemination of emergency information to large numbers of people and over larger geographic areas.’
In other words, Disney’s ‘flixels’ won’t be just a simple array of LEDs, but rather each element (of the proposed fifty total) will be capable of displaying full color imagery as well as video. The secret is that each ‘flixel’ will contain its own rear-projection pico projector and a parabolic mirror that will help deliver the image to the screen, a lightweight mesh material that will allow air flow while still providing enough surface area to clearly deliver the images.
This means, for example, at its basic-most level, Disney Theme Parks could quite easily re-create the floating lanterns scene from Tangled over and over, night after night. And yet, this is probably the tip of the iceberg for what they have planned.