Intel’s smart drones take to the skies above Houston for Super Bowl LI halftime show


posted Monday, February 6, 2017 at 1:59 PM EST


As a New England native and lifelong Patriots fan, Super Bowl LI was an insane game and very much a tale of two halves. While the Patriots were looking to be well on their way to an embarrassing, deflating defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons, the Pepsi Zero Sugar Halftime Show was a distracting spectacle. In particular, the fleet of drones was very interesting.

Unsurprisingly, the quadcopters featured at halftime are special drones. The Intel Shooting Star drone system created a 300-drone American flag in the night sky over Houston during the halftime show, which you can see in full here. “Each drone is about a foot long square, weighs just over eight ounces, and sports a plastic and foam body to soften inadvertent impacts.” The drones have onboard LEDs which can create up to four billion color combinations. How do they fly in formation? Lots of programming and preparation. The drones communicate wirelessly with a central computer and if a drone fails, perhaps due to a battery failure or losing GPS signal, a reserve drone flies in and takes its spot in mere seconds.

It isn’t just the programming that requires extensive planning; it isn’t a matter of packing up 300 drones and launching them as you see fit over a football stadium. There are many rules and regulations in place, such as no drone flying within 34.5 miles of NRG Stadium, the site of Super Bowl LI, during the big game. What did Intel do to deal with the red tape? They filmed that portion of the halftime show earlier in the week.

Image credit: Intel

Intel’s Anil Naduri, who oversees the company’s drones, hopes that the incredible technology might have more socially-impactful uses in the future. The drones could be used to save lives, such as when searching for lost hikers or trying to find people following a landslide where conditions which can be very dangerous for people on the ground. It’s difficult to predict when the Shooting Star drones might turn their attention away from entertainment and toward humanitarian work, but the potential is there and Intel is serious about it.

In any case, for football fans and causal viewers alike, Super Bowl LI was one for the ages and Lady Gaga’s halftime show – and Intel’s drones – played a role in that.

(Seen via Fstoppers)