As usual, Lady Gaga did pretty much everything: she sang, she danced, she played the piano and even moshed off the pit to catch a football. As this article is being written her performance hasn’t yet echoed across the planet but there is something she has delivered that will certainly become an unanimous fact once it does: she has brought some innovation to Super Bowl half-time show.
A fleet of 300 drones dancing and forming the American flag over Houston’s skyline. Intel’s Shooting Star drone system is the technology behind the 300 drones flying formation, and it’s simply fantastic.
Not only because of what it was able to perform last night, but furthermore because what it can potentially do. This same drone technology is close to dramatically transform agriculture, SAR, and other fields we can’t even imagine yet.
Before exploring future developments it is interesting to focus on what happened during the exceptional Super Bowl tech show in Houston.
The drones are made with plastic and foam, about a foot long, square, and much simpler than commercial drones (they aren’t supposed to be noticed). What is supposed to be noticed are the four billion color combinations it can create with LED lights and the choreographed acrobatics it can accurately perform due to state of art coding.
Each unit communicates wirelessly with a main computer unaware that others are dancing along. Just before the show, the computer makes sure all batteries are fully charged and accesses the GPS position of every drone. It just then designates their chores.
If one drone fails, a step unit assumes position almost immediately.
For the Super Bowl, however, it took a lot more planning.
These drones flew over 80 thousand people. FAA strictly prohibits drones within 34.5 miles of the stadium where Super Bowl took place and is very rigorous when it comes to height. Houston’s NRG stadium is also located within Hobby’s Air Traffic control zone.
There was, however, a way for Intel to sneak away its army of drones above those many heads.
It taped the show a few days in advance.
A lot of questions were raised back in December when Intel started realizing the show. Questions went from whether the drones would fly into the stadium or not to how integrated with Lady Gaga’s performance they would be. It was decided it would emphasize and express her music.
The Super Bowl’s crew had to team up with Intel and analyze all restrictions. Only after that they started storyboarding what would be the flag show.
Intel then filmed the drones over several days, with the main shoot being done on January 30th.
Despite taking nine days to do it because of FAA’s restrictions, it couldn’t be done live because of many factors besides security. Weather was one of them - there could have been rain and wind and so it also made it necessary for the show to be filmed.
Besides combining art and technology, there are numerous possible applications for Shooting Star.
They can be used for inspection where humans can’t or aren’t supposed to go. They can also be outsourced to fly over thousands of hectares of crop.
Take a lost hiker, for example. Finding a lost hiker can demand hours of searching, and if the hiker is somewhere a rescue team can't reach on the ground, the drone can find him or her.
Intel’s infantry is easier to command and can perform much more elaborate tasks than single drones, and they are above all potentially life-savers.
For now we got the show. And it was pretty amazing.
What is your take on Super Bowl’s halftime show? How did you like the drones forming the flag? Share your thoughts with us through our Facebook page or in the comments below.