Drone light shows create a science fiction-worthy spectacle in the sky

Move over, fireworks. Fleets of sparkling drones are lighting up the skies over big events and celebrations across the world. 

In Tampa, Sky Elements Drone Shows has 100 of the remote controlled devices that can be perfectly choreographed and timed to delight crowds below. 

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Kyle Pivnick helms their drone shows from behind a computer screen, but before they take flight, lots of planning and 3-D coordination goes into Sky Elements' spectacular displays.

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"We're slowly placing out all 100 drones, and now we're calibrating these drones, so they know exactly where they are in 3D space," Pivnick explained as his crew set up a demonstration at Chamberlain High School in Tampa. "Typically, we show up the day before the event or day of the event, set up about four hours before show time. That gives us plenty of time to test, calibrate, make sure everything is running smoothly and address any issues as they come up."

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Pivnick is modest, saying his job "looks a lot more complicated than it is."

Granted, he's the one who presses "play" and then the drones do the rest, but the planning that goes into the shows is how the magic comes to life. But each show requires up to 200 hours of animation programming.

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Drones are lined up hours ahead of a nighttime show

"You're moving every single drone in a specific path in order to make these creative shapes and designs. What you're seeing might look like 10 minutes, but really it took us 100 hours to produce," he explained. "The computer takes [the] 3-D animation, puts it to every single drone and then every single drone knows it's path. I have my finger basically on the trigger. If something feels off, I can call them all back to home."

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Sky Elements flies about 30 shows a month over cities across the country. While wind can be a major hurdle to putting on a show, Pivnick said his team can put on a show even if the weather isn't perfect.

"We can fly in medium to light rain without a problem. We can fly in 30-mile-an-hour winds, which is crazy because fireworks typically stop at around 15. Fireworks are amazing but nowadays, where there's fire bans and there's the more environmental aspects of fireworks, drone shows are great replacements for fireworks in those regards," Pivnick said.

And the cost, compared to fireworks, is comparable, depending on how many drones are needed to pull off the show. 

Sky Elements Drone Shows puts on private and public shows. For more information, visit https://skyelementsdrones.com/.