Inventions are often a product of inventors’ fantasies…fantasies which are fueled by creativity. For one group of inventors at Disney, they didn’t have to look far for creative inspiration.
Disney being the epitome of fantasy, all they had to do was pull out a leaf of the Disney movie –“The Princess and the Frog”. It’s the scene where ray the firefly and thousands of his buddies put up a spectacular air dance while leading frogs to Mama Odie.
Disney has patented technology that puts up a similar air dance in reality. The invention creates amazing displays in the real world by using hundreds of drones carrying lights that mimic the fireflies. And just like Ray, there is a boss-drone that choreographs the dance of all the other drones.
The patented technology takes in a description of the visual display as an input and converts it into flight paths for all the individual drones. These flight plans are then relayed from a ground station to the boss-drone. The boss-drone then spreads this information to all the other drones. In addition, the boss drone also performs in-flight calculations based on wind conditions and updates the flight plans. The drones receive these flight plans and obediently follow them moving in complex trajectories.
In effect, the drones act as light pixels that can be moved around in controlled paths to create a grand visual display for people watching from the ground.
What makes this invention actually work is its collision avoidance feature. Each drone has its own “personal space” and the moment a straying drone invades the personal space of an adjacent drone, a collision warning is transmitted to the straying drone.The straying drone then corrects its flight path and ensures that it’s out of the personal space of another drone. All this is done while the drones are still following their respective choreographed movements. And the result is as breathtakingly fantastic as the scene from which it is inspired.
Disney will be bringing these drones into their night time shows at Disneyland.
Patent Number: 9,102,406
Patent Title: Controlling unmanned aerial vehicles as a flock to synchronize flight in aerial displays
Inventors: Stark; James Alexander, Wong; Clifford, Trowbridge; Robert Scott
Assignee: DISNEY ENTERPRISES, INC.
Source: Patent Yogi