Nothing To Fear: Disneyland’s Drones

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So you want to play Nostradamus and look into the future of theme parks, especially Disneyland? Better keep an eye on newly-filed patents.

This is true for each and every new theme park-technology that can be included into a Disney attraction or Disney ride. It first exists as a patent. Before it springs to life, it should pass through rigorous design processes that needs to pass certain standards. Of course, patent descriptions are boring and lengthy so no one really wants to do some patent-digging. However, there’s a reason for that: it’s a great way to keep interesting Disney attractions from potential leaks.

Over the past year or so, Disney has been steadily filing patents for different kinds of drone designs. And the good news is that it looks like we’re fabout to start seeing the results of their hard work once the holiday season rolls in (and that’s just a month away!). In addition to fireworks and projection mapping, drones are coming to Disney theme park’s nighttime entertainment and the first video teaser for a mysterious new show has arrived.

Previous patent filings have suggested that Disney is preparing all kinds of unmanned aerial vehicles for use in their parks, from drones equipped with their own projection systems to drones that can actually assist in igniting fireworks. It’s wild stuff. While we don’t know the name of the new nighttime show coming to Disney Springs at Walt Disney World in Florida, but it certainly looks like UAVs, equipped with seasonal lights, will fill the night sky and create imagery that traditional projection and fireworks never could:

Exciting or Scary?

The idea of unmanned aerial vehicles hovering over Walt Disney World en masse is enough to leave a lot of families uneasy. It sounds like a real-life version of Final Destination waiting to happen. But we have absolutely no reason to be afraid. In its estimable wisdom, the FAA has granted Disney a four-year permit to deploy drones at its theme parks. By the end of this month, the drones will be incorporated into a holiday-themed, nighttime lighting display at Disney Springs, an outdoor shopping center at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. If you haven’t yet, check out the teaser video:

Though this is all meant to be whimsical, there is something undeniably unsettling about it, too. The drones are controlled by a team of technicians in a NASA-like control room that could be thousands of miles away. We simply don’t know. Yes, they’re creating Christmas magic, but they could also be calling in an airstrike. And then the drones themselves hover over the earth in a perfect spiral pattern, generating a low humming noise. Sure, it’s eventually revealed to be a giant floating Christmas tree. But it feels like it’s straight out of a sci-fi thriller wherein the future of the world is at stake..

There is a surprisingly involved history behind this. The drone project dates back to 2014. This is when Disney submitted a patent to use programmable drones as replacements for fireworks, light shows, and balloons. But the FAA has strict rules about the use of these unmanned vehicles, so Disney had to apply for a special temporary waiver to use them on its own grounds. And it gets weirder: Disney already has a no-fly zone over its parks. It was the company’s way of preventing advertisers from flying over the Magic Kingdom with banners. However, it also prevented Disney from using drones on its own property. So in order to make this holiday light show a reality, Disney had to do something. It had to apply for permission to violate its own no-fly zone.

source 1, source 2

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