Hundreds of drones are lighting up the night sky in Dubai

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Dubai (CNN) — In recent years, Dubai has set a number of world records with its impressive fireworks displays. To ring in 2023, fireworks and laser shows were seen across the United Arab Emirates, including at the Burj Khalifa, which aimed to hold the biggest laser display of all time.

But the aerial illuminations aren’t over yet. The city is taking its festive spectacles to a whole new level with a light show featuring more than 500 drones.

Based in the UK and Singapore, Skymagic specializes in drone-based light shows that have lit up the skies from Zurich, Switzerland, to Sydney, Australia, and even featured at Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022.

“We think of the sky as the biggest canvas that there is in order to tell our stories, so the technology is very much driven by that,” Ollie Howitt, a senior creative at Skymagic, told CNN.

The company is in Dubai coordinating two nightly shows which run from December 15 to January 29, at Bluewaters Island, near the Dubai Marina.

Both shows, which last around five minutes, feature 3D animations and are focused on the theme of Dubai. The first follows a day in the life of a tourist, starting off with images representing Dubai International Airport, which then merge into animations of the city’s iconic sites. The second show gives viewers a sense of Dubai as an innovation hub, featuring a robot that goes on a journey to explore the city in the future.

It’s estimated that over half a million spectators will watch the drones light up the Dubai sky throughout the festive season. Suhail Maitreya, a project manager for the show, says coordinating such a large live event takes months of preparations.

“We start planning as early as July, so about six months in advance,” said Maitreya, “We get on the site about 10 days before the first show and we run tests every night in advance. We start with flying one drone, going to five, going into 20. Finally, about three days before the first show, the entire fleet of 500-plus drones go up in the air and we start seeing the show coming together.”

Sustainable displays

Skymagic says the drones are much smaller than delivery drones, weighing between 200 and 500 grams. “Our newest fleet is a lot more wind resistant and rain resistant to how it has been in the past, which makes it very good in terms of weather conditions … (which is) always something that you need to consider when putting on a drone show,” says Howitt.

“The key benefit is that it has no residue. It is completely sustainable,” says Maitreya. “I think going forward, more and more cities across the world will be using drones instead of fireworks.”


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