Drone Light Shows

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How to launch your own drone show business (with a $10,000 drone light show kit)

Drone light shows cost easily $15,000 on the low end. But did you know you can put on your own drone light show for $10,000? The folks over at Drone Dojo put together a drone light show kit that includes 10 drones — and it all costs just about $1,000.

And that $10,000 figure isn’t just a one-time fee. Rather than pay $15,000 for another drone light show company to put on your show, you could put together your own DIY drones for $1,000 each. 10 drones would run you $10,000 — but would enable you to keep those drones to continue running shows time and time again.

The only other cost you’d need? A Blue Belt Membership to Drone Dojo (which typically costs $27 per month) that teaches you exactly how to build out this kit and how to use the corresponding software. Then there’s just any fees you need to actually put on the show (e.g. a drone pilot’s license, which will cost you about $150 in testing fees to earn) and potential permitting, insurance or staff fees, depending on whose land you’re flying for.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to launch your own drone light show business, or just a tinkerer with some money to burn looking to make something epic, here’s exactly what you need to do to get started with launching your own drone light show:

Learn how to build your own DIY light show drones

Caleb Bergquist (pictured left) puts on an excellent guide to launching your own drone light show. (Photos courtesy of Drone Dojo)

The Drone Light Show Course from Drone Dojo ranks among the easiest ways to learn how to build your own drone light show kit.

That said, don’t expect an “easy” or “plug-and-play course. You’ll have to do some labor yourself. That includes soldering and 3D printing (though you can use a 3D printing service if you don’t have your own).

The course also assumes you already know the content from one of its other courses: how to build a Raspberry Pi drone. Alas, that’s the same drone in the guide.

The first 100 people to use coupon code DGLSKIT will get $50 off their PiHawk drone kit, which is currently otherwise running for $900!

But from there, you’ll go through a series of lessons, of which there are about 50.

The course starts by having you put together the actual lights themselves that you’ll put on your drone. Drone Dojo’s course teaches with Neopixel PCBs from Adafruit, which offer eight LEDs per stick. 

The course also delves into RTK GPS, which is critical for drone light shows. RTK is commonly used in fields like mapping to ensure centimeter-level accuracy. But, it’s also critical for drone swarms, as that many drones in the sky means the drones must be flying in the exact, right place. (Plus, the animations just look sharper and cleaner with exact accuracy.

Building the drone’s hardware isn’t all though. Then, the course teaches you about drone light show software. Drone Dojo trains you on Skybrush, which is an excellent pick given its freemium model. You can fly up to a certain amount of drones using Skybrush for free. Though, they start to charge for larger fleets of drones around 100 or more. 

Then, Drone Dojo’s course teaches some practical tips. For example, you’ll learn best practices for numbering the drones in your fleet, and how you should best layout your drone for takeoff.

And yes, you’ll finish out by actually putting on your own, first maiden drone light show.

You’ll dive deep into all of that in the Drone Dojo Drone Light Show Course, which runs about 6 hours in total across roughly 50 courses. But you can even get much of this information for free. Drone Dojo also released a free, multi-page guide to building a DIY drone light show. It’s not quite as in-depth as the full course, but it’s at least worth a look if you want to try to put together a drone light show without committing to the full Blue Belt membership.

How to access Drone Dojo’s online drone courses

You can access that course by holding a Drone Dojo monthly subscription members. Blue Belt membership, which costs $27 per month, is the cheapest membership tier that provides course access.

Conveniently, $27 per month covers the entire library of Drone Dojo courses beyond just the drone light show course. That includes their course teaching you how to build a Raspberry Pi drone, “How to program a drone using Python,” and a deep-dive, capstone-type course on “Precision Landing and Drone Delivery.”

And you don’t even have to pay $27! Drone Dojo hooked up the first 100 Drone Girl readers with an exclusive discount code:

The first 100 readers to use discount code DGLSCOURSE will get off Blue Belt Membership for the first month. That’s $9 for the first month, and $27 after that, though you can cancel at any time.

Though if you’re actually planning to buy drone kits from Drone Dojo (more on why you want to do that later) you might also opt for the $47-per-month Purple Belt membership or even the $997-per-month Black Belt membership. That’s because the higher-tier memberships also net bigger discounts on drone kits. Those in turn can easily pay for itself if you’re buying the number of kits you’d need to put on a drone light show.

Here’s some relevant reasons why you might opt for Purple or Black Belt over Blue Belt:

Blue Belt Purple Belt Black Belt
Monthly subscription cost $27 $47 $997
Access to All Dojo Courses? Yes Yes Yes
Github Code Access? Yes Yes Yes
Discount on Drone and Rover Kits $30 off $50 off $100 off
Custom Parts for Projects? No Yes Yes
Priority Technical Support and Project Coaching? No No Yes
Additional Licenses? N/A N/A 20 Licenses For All Courses & Projects

Buying one or two drone kits would easily justify the additional cost of Purple Belt over Blue Belt. For someone seeking custom support, even the pricey Black Belt might be worth it.

The gear you need to build an affordable light show drone

Gear needed to put on a drone light show, as taught by the Drone Dojo online course. (Photo courtesy of Drone Dojo)

The Drone Dojo DIY light show tutorial requires you have quite a few items — though hobbyists and tinkerers may already own quite a few of these things. With a Drone Dojo Blue Belt or higher membership, you also get access to the 3D printable mounts. Those mounts are used to mod the Pixhawk drone kits with the LED attachment.

According to Drone Dojo, their DIY drone show course requires you to purchase pieces including:

It also assumes you have some fairly standard hobby shop gear, such as a soldering iron and solder, electrical tape and a 3D printer (though you might use a 3D-printing service for that part).

Each PiHawk drone kit currently sells for $899 on the Drone Dojo website. Throw in the extra items like the NeoPixel sticks, diffuser, screws, (plus the course cost itself) etc. to get to $1,000 per light show drone.

Though there is some good news. I have a discount code!

The first 100 people to use coupon code DGLSKIT will get $50 off their PiHawk drone kit, which is currently otherwise running for $900!

The Drone Dojo course uses a Neopixel Stick from Adafruit to generate light.
(Photo courtesy of Drone Dojo)

And by the way, the $10,000 figure quoted assumes you want 10 drones in your show. 10 is basically the minimum number of drones needed to pull off a drone show. Of course, you could make a single drone that transforms into your colors of choice — and into position — for far less.

It also requires the suite of Skybrush drone light show software, which consists of: 

But while this is very likely the cheapest way to have a light show drone, time (and headache) is money. You could very well just purchase largely ready-to-fly light show drones made by other companies.

Among the biggest makes of light show drones includes a handful of American drone companies such as Michigan-based Firefly and Texas-based Verge Aero. There’s also Unify, which is a huge player given their use by Sky Elements, which is one of the top drone light show companies in the world. Sky Elements put on the first drone show I’d seen in person, the Star Wars show at the Oakland Coliseum. It’s also run other fun shows like the Serena Williams’ gender reveal party.

Again, just note the additional cost. Whereas Drone Dojo quotes the total cost at about $1,000 per DIY drone, most other drones cost close to twice that (or more).  For example, UVify’s IFO light show drone costs $1,700 per drone. Though, that additional cost also bakes in all ground control systems as well as other software, 24/7 support, and training.

Do I need a license to put on a drone light show?

If launching a drone show on the U.S. that has any sort of commercial ties (not just you launching your own free drone show for the fun of it in your yard), someone on the team, onsite, needs a Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 License. That’s an FAA requirement, which states that all commercial drone flights have a Remote Pilot In Command, which is a person who holds a current Remote Pilot Certificate.

Luckily, the license isn’t terribly difficult to get. You just need to pass a written test, which can typically be done with a few days of studying.

What about Part 107.35?

You’ll also need a waiver to fly multiple drones at once (assuming you have more drones than pilots). FAA Part 107.35 states that “a person may not manipulate flight controls or act as a remote pilot in command or visual observer in the operation of more than one unmanned aircraft at the same time.”

To get around that, you can apply for an FAA waiver. Lawyer Jonathan Rupprecht has some pretty good information about that waiver and FAA waivers as a whole. Rupprecht also has a business of helping drone pilots get waivers, so in exchange for money, he can do the legal work for you.

Plan ahead, as it can easily take more than a month to get approved for one of those waivers. Luckily though, waivers tend to be per company, not per show. They usually last for about two to four years.

Do I need insurance or permits?

There are no federal or state regulations requiring aircraft insurance. However, it’s unlikely you’d put on a drone show without insurance given the risk involved. Though not legally required, you’ll likely want:

  • Drone Liability Insurance: Commercial drone operations require liability insurance to protect yourself from potential property damage or injuries caused by your drones.
  • Event Permits: Depending on the venue and scale of your light show, you might need various permits. That might include permits for airspace closure, temporary flight restrictions, or special events from local authorities.
  • Local Permits: Check with your local municipality for any additional permits or regulations regarding drone activity in your area.

Especially if you’re trying to land clients at wedding venues, festivals or other big event sites, it’s unlikely the landowners would even book you if you didn’t have drone insurance.

There are also some situations where you might need additional permits, such as if you’re flying over 400 feet AGL. Consult an attorney before launching a drone show.

Launching a drone show company

Sky Elements drone light show Oakland A's Coliseum
Sally French, The Drone Girl, at the stage of a Sky Elements drone light show in Oakland, California.

So you’ve got all your drones together. You’ve learned how to operate them. You’ve consulted with an attorney. From there, you can launch a drone show company. You likely won’t be able to do it all yourself. Your team should include:

  • Drone Pilots: Invest in experienced and certified pilots comfortable with drone operations.
  • Choreographer: The magic lies in the captivating movements of the drones. A skilled choreographer with software and/or computer animation expertise is crucial to design and program stunning light show sequences.
  • Tech Crew: Reliable technicians ensure your systems functions flawlessly — and knows how to prepare before and after the show.

And luckily, demand for drone shows is huge. Hundreds of drone shows occur around the world every year, especially during times you’d expect to see big fireworks shows. Drone shows really light up around New Years, July Fourth or for other major festivals, such as annual rodeos or state fairs.

As far as the price of a drone show, it’s the drone show businesses who tend to have the upper hand in terms of cost right now. That’s largely thanks to little competition driving down prices. Most drone show companies charge at least $15,000 per show. And that means companies with smaller fleets might be able to make up their upfront costs fairly quickly.

Much of how much you can charge comes down to both quality of shows (check out the best drone shows of 2023 to see what you’re competing with) and marketing. Companies like Sky Elements have leveraged social media to market shows — their YouTube channel is one of the best drone YouTube channels, period. Additionally, network with event planners, venue managers, and marketing agencies to reach potential clients.

Don’t wait to be a part of the future of entertainment — and don’t sleep on being on the cutting edge of the drone industry. Your next business venture could be launching your own drone show business. And for $10,000, a 10-drone light show kit might be that first step.

The first 100 readers to use discount code DGLSCOURSE will get off Blue Belt Membership for the first month. That’s $9 for the first month, and $27 after that, though you can cancel at any time.

The post How to launch your own drone show business (with a $10,000 drone light show kit) appeared first on The Drone Girl.

The biggest drone show companies in the world

As drone light shows grow in popularity, an increasing number of companies specializing in drone light show services are emerging to meet the growing demand.  

Drone light shows have emerged as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional fireworks, offering visually stunning displays without environmental harm. And as more and more drone show companies pop up, compete with each other — and ultimately push the limits of creativity — we continue to see new and innovative ways to surprise viewers. If you need further proof, just watch these videos of the best drone light shows on display, to-date.

However, the high cost of a drone light show remains a huge barrier. Even the cheapest drone shows can cost north of $10,000. For example, Sky Elements show prices start at $15,000 for smaller shows.  A huge reason for high drone show costs has to do with the drones themselves.

Most drone shows entail at least 100 drones (but often many more). Considering that the cost per individual light show drone can easily run between $1,000 and $2,000, it’s easy to see why drone light show companies charge so much. The good news? Drones are a fixed, upfront cost. Unlike fireworks, which necessitate the purchase of a fresh batch of gunpowder for each show, drone shows don’t incur many ongoing costs beyond the cost of travel and compensation for staff running the show (and perhaps a few other fees, like venue rental fees or permitting fees). Given that, expect drone light shows to become more affordable — and more ubiquitous — in the years to come.

Here’s a closer look at drone show companies like Sky Elements and other big names. We’ve included their locations, notable performances, and — where available — the costs associated with their shows.

The Drone Girl guide to major drone show companies is sorted in alphabetical order. Here’s a deeper dive into those names:

BotLab Dynamics

Based in: New Delhi, India

Botlab Dynamics, an IIT Delhi-incubated startup, orchestrated the captivating 1,200-drone light show at the Narendra Modi stadium during the cricket World Cup final on Sunday. This spectacle wowed not only the nearly 100,000 spectators present but also the millions watching on screen. BotLab says it takes about a month for them to prepare for any given drone show. They have also set an Indian national record when they flew 3,500 drones at Rashtrapati Bhavan last year.

Dronisos

Based in: Bordeaux, France (USA, Dubai, UK)

Dronisos recently established their first American office, setting up a space in Orlando, FL because of the proximity to major theme parks. Drones have the ability to fly both indoor and outdoor and it is dedicated to delivering entertainment for theme parks around the world. Last year, they put on Europe’s biggest-ever drone show for Bastille Day celebrations at Disneyland Paris. Using 1,495 drones, the show took place above Sleeping Beauty Castle.  

Firefly Drone Shows

Based in: Detroit, Michigan 

Firefly is based in America, making it an ideal pick for businesses looking to support other American drone companies. They put on smaller-scale, simpler shows as opposed to multi-layered ones. Firefly is different from other competitors in the market because they’ll not only put on the show but also sell you what you need to put on a drone light show yourself. 

Geoscan

Based in: St. Petersburg, Russia

The Geoscan Drone Light Show has put on more than 100 shows. Also, they have a fleet of over 3,000 drones. Additionally, since their drones are under 250g there’s no need for permits. The prices for a Geoscan drone show depend on the details of the objects and their complexity, just a 100 drone show starts at $26,500.

HighGreat

Based in: Shenzhen, China

HighGreat has a complete drone manufacturing chain from product design, model, manufacturing, processing to product assembly. In 2017, the company created their drone performance leg of the company. Since then, they have had over 5,000 drone shows in over 300 cities, including the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. 

Lumasky

Based in: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Lumasky uses up to 7000 drones in their shows. Though it’s based in Dubai, Lumasky has been performing light shows all over the world since 2018. Among those most delightful shows? Lumasky put on a light show for McDonald’s Panama, which featured McDonald’s famous golden arches. Besides McDonald’s, Lumasky has worked with other big brands such as Samsung, Hyundai, Formula 1, FIFA and Lexus.

Nova Sky Stories

Based in: Munich, Germany 

Nova Sky Stories has become one of the largest in the field after acquiring the Intel fleet. With over 9000 drones, they have an extensive portfolio, including collaborations for events like Formula 1 and music festivals​​. Recently, with the Oceanic Preservation Society they put on a drone show in NYC to draw attention to the global climate crisis and inspire action at scale.  

Sky Elements

Based in: Fort Worth, Texas

Another America based company, Sky Elements holds two Guinness World Records including “Largest Fictional Character made with a multi-rotors or drones” and “Largest aerial images made with multi-rotors of drones.” Their shows include a 400-drone light show at the 65th Grammy Awards​ and the Oakland Athletics Star Wars Light Show​. Check out Drone Girl’s saved instagram stories for a behind-a-scene look at the Oakland A’s Star Wars light show. Prices for a drone light show from SkyElements start at $15,000 for a smaller stock show to much higher amounts for larger, more intricate performances. 

Other notable shows in the Sky Elements portfolio include the drone light show for Serena Williams’ gender reveal party. Sky Elements also holds a Guinness World Record by producing 40 drone shows in a single weekend, which it did during the 2023 Fourth of July weekend.

SKYMAGIC

Based in: Singapore (UK and USA)

SKYMAGIC has had some impressive clients, including the King. They were even included as part of the celebrations for the coronation of King Charles III. The drone show was the largest ever multi-location drone show in the UK.  They also put on that Pokemon drone show for Pikachu Weekend.

UVify

Based in: Seoul, South Korea (U.S.A., Canada, and China) 

Uvify announced earlier this year that its IFO drone show won “Best LED Light Show Drone” award at LDI 2023. Uvify also sells their drones to be used for other light shows, Sky Elements being their largest client.  The IFO model, which is designed for light shows, is priced at $1,700 per drone. This price includes the complete ground control systems, additional software, 24/7 support, and training. They’ve performed notable shows for events including a K-Pop concert and Hyundai’s annual countdown, showcasing their innovation and global reach​​.

Verge Aero

Based in: Austin, Texas

Verge Aero has been featured on events ranging from President Biden’s victory celebration to America’s Got Talent: Extreme to Macy’s 4th of July celebration in NYC. Verge Aero recently launched a new software tool, Verge Aero Composer. The software aims to make the drone show industry more accessible by allowing individuals to create their own drone shows—no technical experience required. 

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Drone show set for Disney World this summer

Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida just announced a brand new drone show called “Disney Dreams That Soar” thats set to run through the summer. Even better? It’s free to watch.

Kicking off on May 24, 2024 and running nightly until September 2, 2024, this high-tech spectacle will feature drones lighting up the sky above Disney Springs, which is the free-to-visit shopping and dining district on Walt Disney World property. A curated soundtrack will accompany the whole experience.

Rather than flying over places where people walk, the drones will fly over Lake Buena Vista, which is the lake that borders the shopping center. Expect the best views from the skies above the West Side of the massive outdoor retail district, which spans 120 acres.

A history of Disney World drone shows

It’s been more than seven years since Walt Disney World last hosted a drone show. Back during the 2016 winter holiday season, Disney Springs hosted another drone show. Called ‘Starbright Holidays’, the show was done in partnership with Intel, which at the time was among the most robust drone light show companies in the world. That Disney Springs holiday drone show ran twice every night and lasted six minutes. Re-live the 2016 show on YouTube, here:

But while this is only the second-ever drone show to arrive at Walt Disney World in Florida, the company is no stranger to drone shows. Among its biggest and best drone shows yet is the Disney Electrical Sky Parade. Held in France over at Disneyland Paris, the drone show pays homage to the iconic Main Street Electrical Parade. That parade launched at the original Disneyland theme park in California in 1972. In that French show, drones resemble iconic parade floats (albeit in the sky) including a train and Elliott from the 1977 film “Pete’s Dragon.” Check out that show here:

Previous Disneyland Paris drone shows include Disney D-Light and Avengers: Power the Night.

Theme parks like Disney World embrace drone shows?

Who says Disney is just for kids? This news should pique the interest of tech enthusiasts, making Disney World a spot for adults to vacation in, too.

And it’s no secret that The Drone Girl is a huge Disney fan. Alas, that here means this drone show necessitates its own blog post. But this nightly summer series is just one of hundreds of drone shows around the U.S. in 2024. Major festivals, sporting events and community holiday celebrations are set to include drone light shows this year. That includes a show for the popular Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, a show at the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, and shows at various MLB baseball games (check out my recap of last year’s Star Wars drone show at the Oakland A’s game in August 2023).

Other theme parks including Dollywood and Universal Studios have also embraced drones. Unlike Disney World, those parks have actually held drone shows inside the gates.

How to watch the Disney World drone show

The Aerophile balloon at Disney Springs

Simply head to Disney Springs, which is free to visit. Even standard self-parking is free at the Disney Springs area.

You’ll best see the show on the West Side. That’s also where you’ll find Aerophile, the massive, hand-painted helium balloon. Aerophile is tethered to the ground but also floats over the water. Since there’s a massive walkway along the water, it should be pretty easy to find a viewing spot. Plus, the show is in the air, so you likely won’t worry about someone blocking your view.

And while the Disney World drone show is free to watch, know that Disney World trip costs aren’t cheap. Especially if you stay at a Disney-owned hotel and end up buying theme park tickets (and on-property food, too), budget at least $300 per person per day. That figure includes food, a hotel room and theme park tickets.

Then again, it doesn’t have to be expensive. I once did a 5-day Disney trip for two people for just $1,600.

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Super Bowl LVIII: drones dominate advertisements

Super Bowl LVIII did it again with a Taylor Swift appearance and a star-studded Usher halftime show. There was also no shortage of clever advertising. But among the most clever advertisements out there? Yes, those are the multiple that featured drones.

Drones appeared on millions of TVs across America in that Popeyes ad. Meanwhile, fans on the ground in Las Vegas, were treated to not one but two drone shows. Both were advertisements in themselves. Here are 3 incredible drone highlights to come out of Super Bowl LVIII:

Drones deliver Ken Jeong an order of Popeyes chicken wings

Actor, writer, and comedian Ken Jeong got a taste of Popeyes’ new Wings — delivered to him via drone. The premise of the ad is this: Jeong cryogenically froze himself 52 years ago, waiting for the best-ever wing. Upon unfrozeeing, he discovers the biggest changes over the past 52 years. That included drones, driverless cars, scooters, even new breeds of doodle dogs and, yes, the chicken wings.

The advertisement was created by Popeyes’ creative agency, McKinney. Filmmaker and MTV Video Music and Grammy Award Winner Calmatic directed the ad. Calmatic is best known for directing movies including “House Party” and “White Men Can’t Jump.”

Watch the full ad here (drones appear at about the 0:44 mark):

Visit Newport Beach hosts post-game drone show

Super Bowl 2024 drone light show Visit Newport Beach

Regular Drone Girl readers already knew this one was coming. Last week, we reported on the Visit Newport Beach drone show. Yep, that was an ad directed at the fans in attendance at Vegas, where 1,000 drone flew for a 12-minute light show. The show over Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas occured one hour after the big game. It was all an ad put on by the destination marketing agency behind Newport Beach, a Southern California beach city.

SkyWorx, which is based in Boise, Idaho, powered the show.

Sky Elements launches drone show in front of Resorts World

That wasn’t the only drone show in Las Vegas this weekend. Another drone show company, Sky Elements, put on a show flying in front of Resorts World Casino. Resorts World is one of the newer, Hilton-owned Las Vegas hotels.

For their show, a fleet of 1,000 drones took flight at Resorts World. They flew a football-themed show including drones in the shape of gigantic helmets and towering 400-foot-tall football players.

“As huge football fans ourselves, we knew we wanted to fly an epic drone show for the Big Game,” said Preston Ward, Chief Pilot of Sky Elements.

That show was hardly Sky Elements’ first time in Vegas. One of their biggest performances to-date was also in Vegas. That was an 1,000-drone F1 drone show.

The Super Bowl loves drones

Drones fly in the NFL logo over the Los Angeles Convention Center at the NFL’s first-ever Super Bowl Drone Show. That was ahead of Super Bowl LVI, February 11, 2022 in downtown Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Getty Images)

As these three instances of Super Bowl drones on the single night of Super Bowl LVIII indicated, the famous football faceoff loves drones.

The 2022 Super Bowl gave us multiple drone light shows over downtown Los Angeles in the days leading up to the game. And in 2019, the Maroon 5 half time show featured not just Big Boi, Travis Scott, and Sleepy Brown, but also a drone show. That was for the Pepsi Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

Then in 2017, hundreds of drones flew during Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

The Super Bowl goes hand-in-hand with ads — and drones can make for pretty slick advertising. But the Super Bowl LVIII entailed all sorts of hilarious and clever advertising. Many advertisers took advantage of the game’s Vegas location to get creative.

In another hilarious, non-drone ad that’s too good not to share. Doritos turned the iconic Luxor hotel’s pyramid into a giant Doritos chip.

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How to watch a drone light show in 2024

In 2023, I got the absolute privilege to see my first drone light show in person. In 2024, I hope to see many more — and I hope you do too. Drone light shows have become a thrilling phenomenon. And particularly as products like Verge Aero’s Composer software and the growth of companies making light show drones make drone light shows more ubiquitous, there’s a good chance you’ll see a drone light show in 2024.

Many drone light shows happen with little notice, but some are planned well in advance. I’ve been on the lookout for those ones that have been giving advance notice. With that, I’ve curated a list of some of the best, public drone light shows so you can make travel plans and see them for yourself.

This is hardly a comprehensive list of every drone light show happening in 2024. In fact, there are hundreds that take place in just a month. Instead, here I’ve specifically listed shows that are set to be either especially big, especially delightful, or especially easy to attend (e.g. they occur in a big tourism destination or as part of a broader festival that you’d likely want to head to).

So whether you’ve never seen a drone light show yet, or you’re ready to bask in another, here are some items to add to your calendar so you can witness your own, in-person drone light show in 2024:

Drone light shows in February 2024

Bradenton Area River Regatta

Date: Friday, February 16

Location: Green Bridge, Palmetto, Florida

How to watch: This drone show will kick off a weekend of powerboat racing and other festivities in a civic event that’s free to the public. The show will be put on by the folks at Sky Elements. Learn more about the Bradenton Area River Regatta drone show here.

New Baltimore Lions Winterfest

Date: Saturday, February 24

Location: New Baltimore, Maryland

How to watch: This drone show is set to be delightful because it’s centered around an entire festival — plus it’s for charity. The annual fundraising event will feature entertainment, food & beverage, merchandise, games, and activities, with proceeds supporting the New Baltimore Lions Club and its charities. The show is put on by Starlight Aerial Productions, which was founded in 2016 in southwestern Michigan.

Drone light shows in March 2024

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Date: Saturday and Sunday nights, from Friday, March 1 through Sunday, March 17

Location: Houston, Texas

How to watch: The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a massive, annual event that first launched in 1932. And 2024 marks the second time that drones are a part of it. Beyond drones, the event entails a massive number of festivities including a carnival, wine show, 5K and 10K race, downtown rodeo parade, trail ride and barbecue contest. Of course, the centerpiece is the world’s largest livestock show and rodeo.

The drone show will take place each Saturday and Sunday night during the Rodeo’s three-week event, scheduled for Feb. 27-March 17, 2024. The show will be put on by the folks at Sky Elements. Learn more about the rodeo’s drone show here.

Drone light shows in April 2024

Thunder Over Louisville

Date: Saturday, April 20

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

How to watch: This is a must-attend event for aviation enthusiasts, as it’s so much more than a drone show. Thunder Over Louisville is one of the top five air shows in the country, drawing an average of 625,000 people each year since 1997. The show is put on by Starlight Aerial Productions, which was founded in 2016 in southwestern Michigan.

Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville

Date: Saturday, April 25 through May 3

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

How to watch: Hang around Louisville even longer to participate in Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville. The weeklong event is named for the supermarket chain and makes for a giant festival. Expect a week filled with concerts, food, a kids’ inflatable playground, midway rides and, yes, a nighty drone show. It’s put on once again by Starlight Aerial Productions, the same folks powering the Thunder Over Louisville show. Learn more about Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville here.

Drone light shows in May 2024

Port of Redwood City Drone Show

Date: Saturday, May 4

Location: Redwood City, California

How to watch: After a successful show last year where the Port of Redwood City and Open Sky Productions hosted a free maritime-themed drone show over the bay, there’s another event planned. There aren’t a ton of details yet, but last year’s version was a full community festival featuring a live band and food trucks.

Music Across America Drone & Light Show

Stone Mountain Park Music Across America Drone & Light Show
Photo courtesy of Stone Mountain Park

Date: Friday, May 24 (kickoff night), with shows on most nights through Aug. 24

Location: Stone Mountain Park in Stone Mountain Park, Georgia

How to watch: The Music Across America Drone & Light Show is a centerpiece of the theme park that’s located only minutes from downtown Atlanta. The 250 choreographed color-changing drones are synced to music and are accompanied by lasers, too.

Performances are held most nights between May 24 and August 24, though check the schedule to confirm a performance is scheduled on your intended day. Admission to see the drone show is included when you purchase an Attractions ticket, though you can also attend by purchasing a standalone ticket.  Learn more about the Stone Mountain Park drone show here.

Drone light shows in June 2024

Alameda County Fair

Photo courtesy of Alameda County Fairgrounds

Date: Friday, June 14 (kickoff night) through July 7 (most nights)

Location: Pleasanton, California

How to watch: The Alameda County Fair has used drones in past years, and the drone light show is set to return for the 2024 fair. The California fair features your usual classics like carnival rides, funnel cakes, horse racing and concerts. But the drone show is rather unique — and free with admission. It plays every night of the fair except July 4.

And though it’s visible all over the Fairgrounds, the best viewing is at the race track. If you’re not sure what days to visit, consider going on opening day (Friday, June 14) or Friday, July 28. On those two days, the drone show will be accompanied by fireworks. Learn more about the Alameda County Fair here.

Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration

Dollywood drone show 2024
Photo courtesy of Dollywood

Date: Saturday, June 15 (kickoff night) through Aug. 11

Location: Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

How to watch: Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration is a summer festival held at the Dollywood theme park. You’ll need a theme park ticket to enter, which grants you access to all the rides, plus bonus summer activities like a nighttime dance party beneath the Wildwood Grove tree and a bubble show. The highlight though, is a nightly drone show.

The celebration kicks off on June 15, but the drone show runs nightly through the duration of the festival, which runs through Aug. 11. Learn more about the Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration here.

Drone light shows in July 2024

Luminous Long Sault Lumineux

Date: Saturday, July 6

Location: Long Sault, Ontario, Canada

How to watch: Long Sault is a community event that centers around a parade of kayaks, canoes, motor boats, and sailboats — all decorated with LED lights. But the lights aren’t contained to just the water. There’s also a drone light show involved.

Learn more about Long Sault here.

A’s Drone Light Show

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Date: Friday, July 19

Location: Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California

How to watch: You’ll need to purchase a ticket to the A’s game, which is being played against the Los Angeles Angels.  Following the baseball game, fans will be allowed to sit on the outfield grass to watch the drone show. The game begins at 6:40 p.m., but the drone show won’t start until the game is over.

If you’re really on a budget, you’ll be able to watch it from outside the stadium. If you park in the A’s lot, you’ll get hit with a $30 parking fee. Or, you could take BART (the region’s train system) in and walk over to the parking lot, where you’ll be able to see the show. Learn more about the A’s drone light show here.

Drone light shows in August 2024

Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival

Date: Friday, August 2 

Location: Grand Haven, Michigan

How to watch: This massive event draws more than 350,000 people, ranging from people looking for a big picnic to high-ranking Coast Guard dignitaries from Washington, D.C. 2024 marks 100 years of the annual event which began in 2024. To celebrate, Starlight Drone Shows will be putting on a drone light show. Learn more about the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival here.

A’s Drone Light Show

Date: Friday, August 23

Location: Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California

How to watch: You’ll need to purchase a ticket to the A’s game, which is being played against the Milwaukee Brewers.  Following the baseball game, fans will be allowed to sit on the outfield grass to watch the drone show. The game begins at 6:40 p.m., but the drone show won’t start until the game is over.

If you’re really on a budget, you’ll be able to watch this drone light show from outside the stadium. If you park in the A’s lot, you’ll get hit with a $30 parking fee. Or, you could take BART (the region’s train system) in and walk over to the parking lot, where you’ll be able to see the show. Learn more about the A’s drone light show here.

Drone light shows in September 2024

Disney Electrical Sky Parade (final night)

Disney Electrical Sky Parade

Date: Monday, September 30

Location: Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallée, Paris, France

How to watch: You’ll need a Disney ticket to see this Disney drone show — and you’ll also have to head to France. The Disney Electrical Sky Parade is the latest in a series of drone shows that have occurred at Disneyland Park in France.

This one debuted in January 2024 and pays homage to the famous Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade — this time putting the iconic sparkling floats in drone form as they fly around the sky. Though I’ve noted this drone show in the September section, note that you can already see it as you’re reading this. It runs nightly through Sept. 30, 2024.

Drone light shows in October 2024

Albuquerque International Balloon Festival

Albuquerque International Balloon Festival drone light show in 2024
Photo courtesy of Albuquerque International Balloon Festival

Date: Saturday, October 5 and Sunday, October 6

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

How to watch: While most drone shows happen at night to take advantage of the night time darkness, these drone shows will happen in the morning — albeit so early it’ll still be dark. The annual balloon fiesta is a site to see with all sorts of hot air balloons as well as entertainment like dancers and musicians. There are balloon races, balloon pin trading, and even other flight exhibitions like a kite show. And at 5:45 on both weekend mornings, there will be a drone light show.

Learn more about the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival here.

Other drone light shows in 2024

Keep in mind that the above list is not exhaustive, and new drone light shows are being announced all the time. I’ve also very likely overlooked the myriad of small drone shows that are becoming increasingly common. This list hones in on shows that someone might be more inclined to travel to, or that are otherwise quite easy to see, such as occurring in a big public place with free viewing.

And expect plenty of holiday time drone shows to be announced later this year. Since it’s so far out, I don’t expect to hear about those schedules for at least a few months. We’ll be updating this post with more shows as we learn of them.

By the way, if you’ve got a great drone light show recommendation that people should consider in 2024, do share it by leaving a comment below! And if you’re looking for 2024 drone events that aren’t just drone light shows (I’m talking conferences, expos and seminars), check out my guide to the best 2024 drone events to attend in the coming year.

The post How to watch a drone light show in 2024 appeared first on The Drone Girl.

Drone light show for dummies: Verge Aero launches ridiculously easy way to make your own show

If you’ve wanted to put on your own drone light show but have no actual technically skills, you likely won’t need any in 2024 anyway. That’s because Verge Aero is set to roll out software that’s effectively Drone Light Show for Dummies, called Verge Aero Composer.

The drone light show company recently announced its new Verge Aero Composer software tool, and it’s specifically intended to “lower the barrier to entry for the drone show industry.”

It’s a drag-and-drop interface that makes it possible to put together a drone show in what the company claims to be “seconds” — all with no technical experience necessary.

Nils Thorjussen, CEO of Verge Aero, said the software is primarily targeting smaller players who might want to put on drone shows, such as small towns, existing businesses or beginning entrepreneurs.  After all, it’s become increasingly more popular to see drone shows at things like community July Fourth events, or to augment things like local Christmas tree lighting ceremonies. And given how drones are more environmentally friendly (and can also net out to be cheaper) than the most stereotypical alternative, fireworks, this newly-launched idiot-proof software could be welcome to everything from budding entrepreneurs to environmentalists to event planners.

“Our goal at Verge Aero is to democratize this very technical and nascent industry with a high barrier to entry,” said Nils Thorjussen, CEO of Verge Aero, in a prepared statement. “As we’ve continued to expand our offerings through 2023, we’re thrilled to be able to bring Verge Aero Composer to the market, greatly enhancing the ability for individuals to become drone show operators, going from an idea to the sky in really a matter of minutes.”

Verge Aero claims that the software further cuts down on the amount of time needed to design a drone show — going from hours to just seconds.

Verge Aero Composer drone light show software
A view of the Verge Aero Composer software tool

How Verge Aero Composer works

It’s a pretty straightforward solution that operates almost exactly as it sounds.

Once you have the software loaded on your computer, you’ll have access to a library of designs and show elements. Drag those into a timeline — much like you’d edit a video using a simple editing tool like iMovie — and you can pull together a full show. And to make it at least a bit less cookie cutter, you can further customize your drone display with personalized logos and text.

Of course, keep in mind that the software is fairly basic, so don’t expect to match the quality that you might expect from performances such as those that were recently named the best drone light shows of 2023.

But for people new to the drone industry, or small businesses looking to break into drone light shows (as well as simply organizations like small

Verge Aero Composer drone light show software
Photo courtesy of Verge Aero

The Verge Aero Composer is intentionally designed to integrate with the company’s other software products which include:

  • Verge Aero Design Studio: for designing shows
  • Verge Aero Flight Control Hub: the control center for the flight planning for a user’s fleet
  • Verge Aero’s Skystream app: delivers branding opportunities for operators and can send synchronized audio to spectators’ devices.

Consider it the final piece in rounding out Verge Aero’s software offerings. People seeing to go deeper into design might still use the full-featured Design Studio. Of course Verge Aero Control Hub is essential for flying the drones, while the Skystream app is an audience-friendly way to offer audio streaming directly to audiences phones in sync with performances. 

Verge Aero Composer drone light show software
Photo courtesy of Verge Aero

And of course, all that software is there to supplement the star of Verge Aero’s product offerings: the X7 drone itself. The Verge X7 drone launched in October 2023 a an upgraded version of the former X1 model. In the transfer from X1 to X7, Verge Aero added more compact storage for easier transportation, faster battery charging, longer battery life, more precise GPS capabilities and bolstered wind and rain resistance. It also honed in on user-friendly enhancements to the integrated control software — which leads to the latest news around Verge Aero Composer.

The Verge Aero Composer was introduced at the LDI Conference in Las Vegas, which is shaping up to be the hub for all things drone light shows. Also during that conference, SPH Engineering seized the opportunity to name the winners of its 4th Annual International Drone Show Competition. The conference also entailed an actual drone light show — this one put on by the folks at Sky Elements Drones (Sky Elements uses drones made by light show drone maker Uvify, which is a competitor of sorts to Verge Aero).

The software isn’t ready just yet. It won’t be available for subscribers until February 2024. As for the subscription fee, it’s $60 per drone annually. So, for a drone light show company with $100 drones, that’d shake out to $6,000. Though, it’s  included for customers who already pay for Verge Aero Design Studio, which is effectively the advanced version of the new Composer software.

And perhaps not surprisingly, you also need to buy the actual Verge Aero drones in order to use the software — it won’t work with any other light show drone. While there is no minimum package for Verge Aero drones, you likely wouldn’t buy just one. Most drone light shows entail 100 — if not many hundreds — of drones flying in the air at one time. Verge Aero won’t disclose how much a drone costs, but you can get more information about purchasing Verge Aero systems through the company’s website.

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Disney Electrical Sky Parade is best theme park drone show yet — watch it here

Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade has been a theme park classic ever since it launched at the original Disneyland theme park in California in 1972. It’s had on and off runs, with regular updates to make the 70s parade relevant to a modern audience. And this latest update, the Disney Electrical Sky Parade, is clear proof that even a parade made in the 1970s can still be cutting edge.

Disneyland Paris this month created its own version of Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade. This one isn’t a parade with floats rolling through the streets though. No, this one is a drone light show. It takes the iconic soundtrack of electro-syntho-magnetic music, remixes it and sets drones to fly in sync with it. The drones take the shapes of some of the original parade’s most iconic floats, including a train and Elliott from the 1977 film “Pete’s Dragon.”

The whole drone show is augmented with projections on the theme park’s centerpiece, “Sleeping Beauty Castle.” It runs about 10 minutes, but you don’t have to travel all the way to France to watch it. Check out the YouTube version of the Electrical Sky Parade below:

How to watch the Disney Electrical Sky Parade

The Disney Electrical Sky Parade debuted on Jan. 8 2024. Though it’s an incredible show, it’s actually a pre-show of sorts, occurring right before the theme park’s nighttime spectacular called Disney Dreams.

The show will run nightly through Sept. 30, 2024 (though there are a few date exceptions, and the show is subject to cancellation for severe weather). As far as the best viewing spot, head in front of the castle. Dronisos recommends viewing its shows from about 300 meters (just under 1,000 feet) away. Though, if it’s a clear night with calm weather, drone light shows have been spotted more than a kilometer (over a half-mile) away.

Come October, Disney will turn over to seasonal entertainment, ending its run to make way for Disney Halloween Festival and later Disney Enchanted Christmas, both of which feature their own parades and nighttime spectaculars.

Disneyland Paris Disney Electrical Sky Parade
Concept art courtesy of Disney

How Disney Electrical Sky Parade was made

The drone show is a collaboration between the Disneyland Paris Entertainment teams and Dronisos, which is a company that puts on drone shows around the world.

As far as the drones themselves, those are also French. Dronisos has a partnership with French drone maker Parrot (they’re most recognizable with their now-defunct Bebop drone). The partnership allows Dronisos to build upon Parrot’s drone platform to specifically develop performance drone systems for entertainment.

Though these are hardly recognizable as Parrot drones. And though there’s a growing list of companies that make light show drones, it wouldn’t be fair to call Parrot one of them. That’s because Dronisos says it heavily modifies the hardware and software of these drones to make them work for drone light shows.

Dronisos actually bought the licence from Parrot to take the company’s Mambo, Bebop 2 and Anafi 1 drones and remake them. Dronisos has taken the Mambo (which was initially marketed as a toy drone) and renamed it “Helios” as an indoor-only light show drone. The Parrot Bebop 2 has been reworked with a light into the Zephyr drone, and the Anafi is renamed as the Autan. Both the Autan and Zephyr can be used indoors or outdoors, and all three light show drones are built in France.

Image courtesy of Dronisos.
Graphic courtesy of Dronisos

Dronisos has become the ‘official technology supplier of Disneyland Paris’ and is also the team that powered previous Disneyland Paris drone shows including Disney D-Light and Avengers: Power the Night.

Dronisos has also worked with other theme parks, including the Dollywood Summer 2023 drone show.

And as far as how much the Electrical Sky Parade drone light show costs? Disney won’t disclose it. But for context, Texas-based Verge Aero says its drone shows usually cost between $50,000 to $200,000 for a customized, outdoor drone light show. Luckily, Disney gets the benefit of repeatable, so it’s likely the costs are far, far lower. No matter the mechanism, light shows are hardly cheap in any form. Disney spends an estimated $33,000 per show for its fireworks spectacular at its Magic Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Fla.

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