The old Stars and Stripes were created using 300 Intel Shooting Star drones, all of which were choreographed using a PC with pre-programmed algorithms. (images via Atkins)


You have to hand it to Lady Gaga, she can sure put on a show, and her Super Bowl halftime performance was no exception. During her first song God Bless America at Houston’s NRG Stadium, 300 Intel Shooting Star drones coalesced in the night sky and formed the US flag in red, white and blue. Granted, most of you have undoubtedly already seen the performance. However, some of you might not know how it was done or when it was done for that matter.


Flying drones anywhere in the US is an issue the FAA has strict regulations for and sports arenas are no exception. In Houston’s case, the regulations state no drones operate in a radius of 34.5 miles around NRG Stadium. As to why- it sits within Houston’s Hobby Airport jurisdiction where drones and planes don’t play well together. Not to mention the FAA has issues with drones flying above 80,000 spectators and as a result, the drone portion of the show wasn’t live but rather taped a week before the Super Bowl.


Regardless, it did look incredible, and Intel pulled it off (after gaining clearance of course) using their Shooting Star drones, which may look very low-tech, but looks can be deceiving. The drones themselves measure out at about a foot across, weigh in at 280-grams, feature a body made of soft plastics and foam and contain no screws.



Intel’s Shooting Star quadcopter feature LEDs that can generate over 4-billion different color combinations.


Intel’s quadcopter was tailor-made specifically for light shows, which is why it sports LEDs that can generate over 4-billion color combinations and with its soft-body construction, helps to prevent damage from bumping into one another while flying in formation. The drones are coordinated wirelessly using a central computer that’s programmed in 3D space to form almost any shape needed. The central hub also keeps an eye on the drone’s battery life and GPS signal strength and orders others to take their place if either is low (the show must go on).


With the drone’s capabilities, Intel is looking to task them for more than just impressive light shows and envision them taking on more capable roles such as search and rescue, hazardous environment inspections and even agricultural purposes at some point in the near future. Staying on the topic of ‘alternative tasks’ and drone use near airports- 3DR, Autodesk, and Atkins were tasked by Atlanta officials for an expansion project at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.



An Autodesk Recap 360 model of passenger drop off point and Skytrain platform at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.


In 2015, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta became the busiest airport in the world (exceeding 100-million annual passengers) and as such required a new expansion to accommodate passenger loads. The city tasked engineering/design firm Atkins to rebuild a parking lot and drop off facility at the North and South parking area of the airport. To get a complete overview of the area for detailed construction planning, Atkins turned to 3DR and their Site Scan drone to garner data to generate high-definition maps and 3D point clouds (data points in a coordinate system) modeled using Autodesk’s Recap 360 platform.


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3DR’s Site Scan quadcopter features a Sony UMC-R10C camera and is controlled using the company’s iOS app.


3DR’s Site Scan quadcopter is outfitted with a Sony UMC-R10C professional-grade camera that features 20MP APS-C sensor along with a Sony SEL20F28 lens to capture HD images. The drone can be controlled using an iOS-based mobile device or autonomously using a GPS-based pre-programmed route. For the airport project, Atkins used the drone for a total of seven flights, capturing over 700 nadir and oblique images over an area 40 acres.


The images were then uploaded to the 3DR cloud and processed into 2D orthomosaics and 3D point clouds, with the data used to build 3D models with Autodesk Recap 360. Those models will ultimately be used to facilitate demolition, help during the design phase of the expansion and to help plan operations during the construction phase to limit the impact it will have on airport operations.


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