LOOK TO THE SKIES Drone show to dazzle crowds

August 25, 2021 Cranberry Living

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The Mars Spaceship. Harold Aughton/Butler Eagle

The skies over Mars will be buzzing at this year’s Mars New Year festival.

Firefly Drone Shows from Detroit, Mich., will put on a brightly lit display on Friday and Saturday night over the town of Mars.

“The best view is going to be from downtown, but the drone show is positioned over a large patch of woods south of the town,” said Ryan Sigmon, a project manager at Firefly Drone Shows. “That’s where it will actually be flown, but it will be at a high enough altitude that everyone downtown will have a great view.”

The show will be made up of a fleet of 100 drones, all of which are built and designed in-house at Firefly. They’ll move around in the sky in patterns up to 500 feet across to make aliens, stars, and extraterrestrial shapes.

Visitors can catch the show on both nights of the Mars New Year festival at 10 p.m., sponsored by Mars Bank and Planet Mart.

Putting it together

The process of creating a drone show like this one starts with a storyboard and identifying the different creative pieces that will be put into the final product, Sigmon said.

“We build up the storyboard, and then that goes over to our animation team,” he said. “They’ll build up the whole show piece, and you can watch the show on a computer before it ever takes place in the skies.”

Once the animation file has been created with colors, transitions, and timing, it gets converted into “drone data” — GPS coordinates for all the drones to follow — and is then sent to the swarm itself. The show is all preprogrammed, and a single “pilot” activates it on the night of the performance along with other members of the team who help set up.

“A project like this we’ve been working with Mars for over a couple months on,” Sigmon said. “From the time that they booked to the time that we built up the show and scored music to and everything else, it’s around a two-month project.”

During that time, the show passes through a lot of hands.

“Project management like myself, other people who are doing coding or programming, a team that actually takes drones out to the field and runs test fights on the entire show multiple times: it goes through a dozen people’s desks and they all have a very specific role in bringing into it to life,” he said.

Popular performance

Drone shows started gaining popularity in the United States starting in about 2015, as companies such as Intel and big global venues such as the Superbowl and the Olympics began pioneering the technologies.

“Even when we started this business in 2017, there wasn’t nearly the demand for drone light shows as there is now,” Sigmon said. “Now, we perform an average of 30-50 shows per year.

“Being out there and being active and sharing our tech with our customers is kind of a snowball effect for more people being interested in it. We’ve worked and partnered with a lot of brands who have used it for marketing, and they’ve seen it be a great success for them, so it’s building upon itself.”

Sigmon said that the Firefly team is looking forward to landing in Mars again.

“We love working with the city of Mars,” he said. “We worked with them back in 2019 and had a blast with them. They’re the kindest people in the world, and we’re looking forward to spending more time here and celebrating Mars New Year.”

Butler Eagle
Butler Eagle
Butler Eagle
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