From Disney to Dancing: Drones in Entertainment

Drones and Disney

What can you use UAVs for beyond military purposes, photography, or shipping? You’d be surprised. Drones are rapidly gaining traction in the entertainment industry thanks to their agility and ability to choreograph movement in large groups.

From bizarre to brilliant, the possibilities are endless. Sometimes in order to unleash your full creative potential, all you need is a boost from state-of-the-art technology.


Disney’s first drone show took off last November in the Disney World park, an aerial ballet of 300 choreographed drones accompanied by a medley of classical holiday music inviting guests to wish upon a star. The display featured a number of unmistakable holiday displays four hundred feet in the air, from stars to Christmas trees to the dove of peace.

Always ahead of the curve, this sparked several other novel ideas to combine drones and entertainment. Disney’s new patent shows how a flock of choreographed drones can work together to move a towering marionette of the Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. The future of Disney parades could be in UAV tech, lessening the need for costumed actors for shows and decreasing the safety risks of putting people in bulky ensembles with limited visibility.


In 2014, Cirque du Soleil partnered with ETH Zurich and Verity Studios to create a short film featuring quadcopters, aptly titled “Sparked.” In a similar vein to Beauty and the Beast, Cirque du Soleil’s show features furniture that comes to life...lamp shades, to be exact. But since it’s a bit difficult to get humans into floating lamp shade costumes, Cirque du Soleil went with the next best thing - drones.

Dancing with Drones is the first ever multimedia drone show. The show aims to communicate the peaceful and artistic uses of drones by using state-of-the-art technology hand-in-hand with dancing. What makes their show uniquely notable, however, is that the self-organizing group of drones respond to the cues of human dancers without the aid of any pre-programmed routes. The show’s dancers use wearable tech strapped onto their hands that communicates with their airborne drone counterparts.

Featuring a stage filled with humans and drones in elaborate real-time synchronization, their current show poses the question: Can humanity conquer its fear of technology and find a way to work in harmony with it?

Film and Television

Drones are growing in popularity in the film and television industry. According to the LA Times, a camera drone and crew costs roughly $5,000 per day, versus the $25,000 a day required for a helicopter shoot. Drones are also able to fit into tighter spaces, making them incredibly valuable for cinematographers. And thanks to the FAA’s approval of commercial drone usage for film and TV productions, footage can be shot locally in the USA rather than having to outsource to other countries. You’ve probably already seen a few drone shots without even realizing it - Skyfall, Into the Woods, and Game of Thrones, amongst others, all feature scenes filmed by UAVs.

There is no shortage of artistic endeavors made achievable with drone technology. UAVs can be used to support the fusion of engineering and art, resulting in never-before-seen projects that could never have taken off from the ground (literally!) just a few years ago.

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