A Record-Breaking Drone Show Ended With Quadcopters Falling From the Sky

By Patrick Lucas Austin on at

This weekend, the city of Xi’an, capital of Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, was host to a record-breaking drone performance, even larger than Intel’s 1,218-drone performance during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics. And while drone maker Ehang Egret nailed the first showing, its second go-round a few days later wasn’t as smooth. And by “wasn’t as smooth,” I mean a couple of drones fell out of the damn sky.

The 13-minute performance, according to Chinese News Service, spanned over a kilometre and broke Intel’s Guinness World Record for the largest number of simultaneously airborne unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by a cool 156 drones. To qualify for the record, each drone must be of the quadcopter variety, and all must remain airborne for at least one minute (with faulty drones deducted from the final count).

The drones, equipped for a light show, were controlled using Ehang Egret’s drone coordination software, Drone Formation Flight, which the company offers for publicity and branding needs. During the performance, the drones formed 16 different 3D images, ranging from the number 1374 (in honour of the 13.74-kilometre wall of Xi’an from which the drones took flight) and phrases like “Sprinting Xi’an.” Thing is, as Ehang Egret CEO Shi Zheyuan predicted, signal interference from the 100,000-strong crowd’s mobile devices would make the 1 May live performance a more difficult endeavour.

He was right. While the 29 April rehearsal performance helped Ehang Egret secure the world record, its second attempt on 1 May hit a few snags in the form of rogue drones and downed UAVs. In a video from Beijing News, you can see a few EHANG Egret drones break formation, and plummet to the earth toward the end of the performance.

The company’s no stranger to drones, and employing them in the service of elaborate displays. In February, the company launched 1,000 drones in a light show held at the Guangzhou city centre. Ehang Egret is also working on autonomous aerial vehicles in the form of a self-driving single-passenger flying taxi.

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