What Are Drone Lightshows And How Do They Work

A drone display is the use of multiple drones or unmanned aerial vehicles. Often quadcopters are used for light shows. They fly in a coordinated fashion for public display. The drones are usually equipped with LEDs. Drone light shows are done at night because they make a visible figure, art, or words. Drone light shows differ from fireworks because drones do not produce any kind of noise or air pollution. Also, fireworks are one-time use, whereas, drones are reusable. 

The first drone exhibition was presented in 2012 in Linz/Austria. The drone light show was presented by Ars Electronica Futurelab where they introduced SPAXELS, which means space elements. The drone light show can be used for entertainment. They are used in a group such as swarming behavior and they coordinate to produce images. 

What Is A Drone Lightshow? 


Drone light shows work with artificial intelligence networks. During the light show, they don’t make real-time decisions, think for themselves, or be self-aware, but they are programmed to do so. The process of creating a drone light show is fairly straightforward. The design team creates a storyboard displaying the desired images and effects. They are then animated in specialized software that translates them into synchronized flight paths for each drone. 

Apart from the synchronized flight paths, the company makes a soundtrack for the display. All the transmissions are sent to the drones through radio signals from a piloted ground control station. When the pilot is satisfied while making drones safe and ready to go, the drones start taking off to draw the storyboard in the sky. Hence, the drone light show starts. 

How Do Drone Lightshow Works? 


Creating a system that can fly repeatedly and with safety elements, requires a lot of engineering work. Engineers of Verge Aero have designed drones and software specifically for producing the drone light show. The custom drones lack a few elements such as cameras that are normally found on drones. On the other hand, the custom drones are having blindingly bright LED light sources. 

Verge Aero’s Software 


Verge Aero’s design software allows the users to select special effects of graphics and place them on a timeline. These are similar to those found in video editing software. The special software for drone light show calculates the flight paths of each drone. It makes sure that they fly at a certain distance and do not collide with one another in the mid-air. Also, these drones generate a full 3 representations of the show that displays as expected. 

Each drone requires a unique program and the ground control station monitors each drone via an encrypted local network that provides maximum security. The flight crew uses a detailed dashboard display at the ground station that prepares the drones for continuous flight with monitoring status. The drones themselves carry multiple radios operating simultaneously that are away from busy Wi-Fi frequencies. It ensures that communications are maintained even in the busy and noisy environment of radio. 



The drone light show is presented by the experts in relevant aviation topics such as weather and aviation regulations and certified pilots. There are few checklists before each show to ensure that everything is in order. 

  • The drones should be fully operational. 
  • Batteries should be fully charged.
  • The flight zone is clear

Once the checks are complete, the pilot presses the GO button and the drones are ready to complete their mission. 

Why Don’t We See Drone Lightshow More Often? 


The drones are now available everywhere but still, we don’t see more drone light shows. The problem is that the drone light shows require technology that is now maturing. Innovations often take time to catch on. Drone shows are no different but there are several factors for limited acceptance. 

  • High cost 
  • need for regulatory approval
  • Limited and expensive insurance options
  • Lack of effective drone light show design tools 
  • Security requirements
  • Labor-intensive operations

High precision avionics for specialized drones require a high cost. On the other hand, labor-intensive operations can help whether it is struggling with preparing meticulous drones for flight or rudimentary control software. High operating expenses may be acceptable for the Olympics or Super Bowl but not for all types of events. 

However, the innovations of Verge Aero are promoting drone light shows for more accessible events with a wider range of budgets. 

Will Drone Lightshow Replace Fireworks?


Fireworks are increasingly criticized for their negative environmental impact such as polluting, noisy, and wasteful. Concerns regularly arise about its impact on military veterans suffering from PTSD, as well as sensitive wildlife populations. Additionally, in many places, fireworks have been banned due to the increased risk of forest fires. 

Other factors led many to consider the alternatives for replacing fireworks. There are multiple unusual uses of drones such as drone light shows. In many cases, drone shows have been successful because they are a great alternative to fireworks. However, they are a new form of entertainment and they have much more to offer. Also, drone light shows are capable of a much wider range of effects than fireworks. 

The sophisticated choreographic ability of drone light shows gives them more potential to tell the stories in the sky. Drone light shows are perfect for the areas or environments where fireworks are not allowed. 

3D Pixels In The Sky 


When you think about it fireworks have a pretty limited repertoire. Usually, a handful of effects of fireworks repeat over and over again, just in different sizes, combinations, colors, and intensities. With drone light shows we can have repositionable and dynamic 3D pixels that are capable of generating unlimited images. Drones offer more creative options than fireworks. It is easy to imagine that drone shows are becoming more and more mainstream. 

People will one day remember fireworks as being pretty mundane by comparison. Either way, the transition from fireworks to drones will be gradual. Fireworks will be with us for a while but the simple fact is that they are quite inexpensive to set up. But as drone light shows become more affordable, they will be used on more events than before. 

List Of Drone Displays 


Several drone light shows have been displayed across the globe for opening or closing ceremonies, concerts, premiers, etc. 


Event Name



No. of Drones Used

September 2012


Ars Electronica Futurelab


49-LED Equipped UAVs

March 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

Premiere of the film

Tower Bridge in London

50 UAVs

August 2013

Opening Ceremony

QUT Campus


30 UAVs

November 2015

Guinness World Record

Ars Electronica Futurelab for Intel

Tornesch near Hamburg, Germany

100 UAVs

November 2016

Guinness World Record


Krailing, Germany

500 UAVs


Super Bowl LI Halftime Show

Lady Gaga Song

NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, USA

300 UAVs

September 2017

Release of Wonder Woman film

Warner Bros

Los Angeles

300 UAVs


2018 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony

Pyeongchang Games


1,218 UAVs

June 2018

Great Exhibition of the North

Leeds-based creative studio Newsubstance

Newcastle, England

100 UAVs

July 2018

50th Anniversary of Intel

Guinness World Record

Facility at Folsom, California

2066 UAVs

Drone Lightshow – What Are They And How Do They Work?

Drone light show is performed by using multiple drones or unmanned aerial vehicles. These custom drones are different from commercial or normal drones because they don’t have cameras. Specialty drones like the LED-equipped custom drones are programmed through software to display a light show in the air, only at night. Special software designed by Verge Aero helps the designers to make a display and engineers to program the continuous flight of the drones. 

Drone light show is not an easy task, because it goes through various checklists and testing. After the testing is complete, the drone light show takes place in a public place. It is said that the drone light shows will replace the fireworks. You don’t usually see drone light shows because the setup cost is higher than fireworks. Over time, the technology will mature and you might see a Happy Birthday drone light show over your home.