Disney Makes History with First U.S. Light Show Powered by 300 Intel Drones

Ken Kaplan Executive Editor, iQ by Intel
Disney Intel Drone Light Show

Intel Shooting Star drones bring technology innovation to traditional light shows at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

This holiday season, kids of all ages will wish upon many of the 300 Intel Shooting Star drones lighting up the sky above Disney Springs, the waterfront shopping, dining, and entertainment district located at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

“Starbright Holidays, An Intel Collaboration” is a drone light show designed for the holiday season. Shows begin Sunday, November 20 at 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. EST.

It marks the first time in the U.S. that 300 drones simultaneously perform a synchronized light show. The flying robots paint the sky with colorful images choreographed to traditional holiday music.

Disney castle snow globe

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts collaborated with Intel to build the synchronized light show based on Intel Shooting Star drones.

Intel flew a synchronized fleet of 500 Shooting Star drones in Germany on October 7, 2016, which won a Guinness World Record title for the Most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) airborne simultaneously.

Disney is built on creativity and innovative storytelling techniques, said Loyal Pyczynski, executive R&D Imagineer at Walt Disney Imagineering.

“We immerse our guests into their favorite stories in a way that makes the fantastic feel authentic,” he said.

people watching drones

Disney teamed up with Intel to evolve the art of canvassing the sky by incorporating cutting edge drone technology.

“We’ve unlocked a new medium of storytelling in the sky. ‘Starbright Holidays’ will inspire lifelong memories for our guests and their families.”

‘Starbright Holidays, An Intel Collaboration’ was initially inspired by an iconic scene in the hit animated film, Tangled. In particular, it was the scene where the night sky above the kingdom of Corona became lit up by thousands of floating lanterns.

Purpose-Built Drone Technology

Desires to turn that evocative floating lantern scene into an unforgettable, real-life experience led Pyczynski’s team of “Imagineers” to Intel’s drone light show technology.

man launches drone

“After seeing the incredible accomplishments they had with their record-setting Intel Drone 100 show, it was clear that an Intel-Disney collaboration could yield an innovative, creative and entertaining show for Disney Springs,” said Pyczynski.

In July, Disney and Intel met to discuss Intel’s drone hardware, control software and light show animation. From there, they two teams created a new choreographed animation based on holiday themes.

drone christmas tree

“Intel Shooting Star drones are made out of foam and flexible plastic,” said Natalie Cheung, drone light show business director for Intel’s UAV Group.

“They weigh only 280 grams (less than 10 ounces). There are no screws. Each propeller rotates inside a protective cage. They’re designed to be safe, reliable and easy to fly.”

Cheung said the purpose-built quadcopter drones are easily programmed for any animation and controlled by one computer.

The fleet of drones is equipped to light the sky with more than 4 billion color combinations.

engineer prepares drone

To obtain permissions for flying at night at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort, Cheung’s team showed the FAA how the drone light show works. As soon as Intel received approvals for Part 107, Intel and Disney worked on holiday-themed animations.

With each new animated image painted in the sky, Pyczynski said ‘Starbright Holidays’ spectators can make a wish – for the perfect gift, time with family and friends, or peace on earth.

“The experience builds into a stunning and inspirational finale, leaving guests filled with the joyous spirit of the holidays,” he said.


Editor’s note: Learn more about Intel Shooting Star drones and other Intel drone innovations at the iQ Drone series and Intel Newsroom.

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