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Drone light show headed for Adelaide Fringe

written by Hannah Dowling | March 7, 2022

To learn more about drone light shows, check out the latest edition of the Australian Aviation magazine.

Celestial is gearing up to bring its 350-drone light show to the skies of Adelaide this week, to mark the beginning of the third week of the Adelaide Fringe cultural festival.

The show has been given the green light to proceed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and will kick off every evening from 7-30 March over Leconfield and Richard Hamilton Wines in McLaren Vale.

It comes after Celestrial wrapped up its aerial light display over Melbourne’s Dockland in late January, representing its first show the UK company has performed in Australia.

The display includes over 350 drones and encompasses First Nations artwork, Australian icons, spoken poetry and a custom commissioned soundscape.

The Adelaide show will include narration by First Nations singer-songwriter Archie Roach and will also feature music by acts such as Electric Fields, Kev Carmody and Nancy Bates.

It comes after Celestial’s first Australian show was postponed by nearly a month in January, after initially being cancelled by CASA over regulatory concerns.

CASA said it worked closely with the chief remote pilot contracted by Celestial to ensure all safety risks were considered and mitigated ahead of the Adelaide show, with CASA manager Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Operations, Scott Duffy, highlighting that public safety is paramount when looking at drone display applications.

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“Drone displays are a growing trend, not only in Australia but around the world. With more and more people coming out to see these innovative displays, safety is at the top of our list and is checked at every stage in our assessments and approvals,” Duffy said.

“Each display is different and comes with its own set of complexities, which is why we conduct a number of rigorous checks to ensure the display complies with our safety regulations.

“Our checks include attending a rehearsal so we can assess the operator’s ability to conduct the display under simulated circumstances. This gives us a clearer picture on the overall safety of the operation and the opportunity to provide feedback to implement into procedures.”

RPAS inspector Ed Morris said for this display, it is taking a team of six licensed drone pilots to run the show.

“It takes a huge amount of preparation to ensure the display comes together on the night and the appropriate procedures and mitigations are in place to reduce risks,” Morris said.

“There are a number of safety measures in place to ensure the drones don’t fly into each other, stay in formation throughout the display and land safety back on the ground.

“The drone display company use an animation system to meticulously plot out the show, photogrammetry surveys, and Google Earth to predict where the drones are going to go.”

Celestial says its drone light displays could soon surpass the world’s best firework displays for special events and New Years’ celebrations. The Somerset-based company highlights that drones are cheaper, manoeuvrable and “can be used again and again”.

Earlier, a similar 500-drone light show took to the night sky above Sydney’s iconic harbour in the first days of 2022, as part of the six-day ELEVATE Sydney festival, organised by Destination NSW.

Between Saturday, 1 January to Wednesday, 5 January, 500 drones took to the sky each night in choreographed harmony as part of the Sydney SkyShow, projecting uniquely Australian imagery and set to an original soundscape, over Sydney Cove.

Images included boomerangs, waratahs, a cockatoo and “word art”.

The 11-minute show was performed by international drone pilots from computer giant Intel, who were trained and accredited to operate in Australian skies by local drone companies Aviassist and Mirragin.

To learn more about the emerging trend of drone light shows in Australia, check out the latest edition of the Australian Aviation magazine, here.

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