Within days of receiving permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones during their nighttime shows, Walt Disney World has announced what will be its first nighttime show using the unmanned aircraft.
The new show has been in development for some time, with Disney working alongside experts in the field with experience in drone-based shows. No further information has been released, but according to those familiar with the situation, look for a debut of the show in mid November, with viewing areas likely to be located in the Marketplace area.
A show using drones at Disney Springs will debut for the holidays. A brief clip Disney unveiled Monday shows people using remotely controlling devices that create a Christmas tree of green lights in the sky.
A New Holiday Experience is Coming to Disney Springs
“This holiday season, the idea of “wishing upon a star” will take on an even more magical meaning in the skies of Disney Springs,” the Disney Parks Blog said.
According to Scott Smith, assistant professor of hospitality and tourism at the University of South Carolina, putting the drones at Disney Springs instead of in a theme park is a sound strategy.
“It’s a smart way of getting people out and introducing them to Disney Springs, especially to locals who may end up doing some Christmas shopping out there,” he said. “But I suspect once they reach that goal, they will pick this up and move this somewhere else where they need attendance.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has accepted Disney’s application for drone flights. This clears the way for their use in nighttime spectaculars at the theme parks.
Disney has been working on drone technology for use in the parks for the last couple of years, and although the technology itself is now ready, a number of FAA rules and restrictions had stood in the way.
An application for the FAA waiver was filed back in October of 2015 which has now been granted.
Specifically, Disney can operate drones during nighttime, in multiples, and over Special Security Notice Flight Restriction Areas and Class G airspace. The waiver is effective from November 1 2016 to November 30 2020.
Although Disney has not made any announcements about drone use in the parks, all of the existing nighttime shows could be enhanced with their inclusion. And of course, entirely new shows could be developed with the technology, perhaps bringing night shows to locations that were previously unsuitable.
In the not-too-distant future, when Cinderella looks out her castle window she may spot a drone flying by.
The Walt Disney Co. has taken the next step in integrating drones into its fireworks shows at Disneyland and Walt Disney World: it has applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for what’s called a Section 333 exemption, which allows a company to legally operate drones commercially. Currently, it is illegal to operate a drone for commercial purposes, though that’s expected to change in 2016.
The drones would fly preprogrammed flight paths and emit LED lights at various intervals, lighting up the sky. Up to 50 drones at one time might be used for nightly firework shows, according to details included in the Section 333 exemption request.
But no need to worry about a drone crashing down and ruining your vacation — Disney also said in the paperwork filed with the FAA that these drones will only fly in the theme park’s “pyrotechnic clear zone,” meaning areas that are inaccessible to visitors.
MarketWatch first broke news that Disney was considering using drones in its theme park entertainment back in August of 2014, after the company filed three patents for drone and UAV-related designs. Disney intends to call its drones “Flixels.”
The company currently is using drones manufactured through 3D Robotics, a Berkeley, Calif.-based drone startup that has raised $99 million over four funding rounds from investors including Qualcomm Inc. and Richard Branson.