The Disney theme park empire is always working to stay on the cutting edge of spectacle tech, and judging by some recent patent applications, The Mouse has his eye on the skies: Disney's R&D teams want to use drones for their theme park parade floats and aerial displays.
As discovered by Marketwatch, Disney researchers filed three patent applications last week, all of them drone-powered. The first one describes a system of flying projection screens manoeuvreed by a team of UAVs flying along a pre-programmed route. The second would replace traditional fireworks with floating UAV light pixels, which sounds pretty cool, even if it wouldn't pack the KABOOM of explosion-based fireworks.
Schematic of "Aerial Display System With Floating Pixels," from Disney's patent application.
Then we get to the really mind-bending one: "Aerial display system with marionettes articulated and supported by airborne devices." Yes, giant drone-operated puppets walking, dancing, or whatever-ing down Main Street, U.S.A. "This is a significant improvement over prior flying characters, which typically were provided in the form of parade or other blimps/balloons filled with hot air or other gases and that had little and/or awkward articulation of any movable parts," the patent reads.
And the drone-powered giant marionette sure sounds awesome. I mean, just check out that schematic drawing of a drone-operated Jack Skellington:
Of course, filing for patents is a far cry from actually putting a technology into use. Drone technology is tricky, even for the brilliantly playful Imagineers. Even more challenging is the FAA's stance on drones, which bans pretty much any commercial drone operation in the US until the agency has put more specific rules in place.
But for just a moment, put concerns over legality (and injury) out of your mind. Imagine watching a giant-size Pluto or Ariel or Elsa walking around Disneyland without handlers wrestling with guide-wires. That would be simply magical. [Marketwatch; Slate; Forbes]