Intel invented a way for a single operator to fly hundreds of drones at once


The drones fly together to create animations in the night sky.

Intel unveiled a tiny new drone today, the Shooting Star, designed specifically for light shows in the night sky.

Weighing in at less than a pound, the small quadcopter is designed to fly in unison with hundreds of other drones, all controlled by a single operator.

An individual pilot flew 500 Shooting Star drones simultaneously in early October, breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for most drones operated at once by a single pilot. The flight took place in a small town outside of Munich, Germany, where Intel received a waiver from local regulators to perform the record-breaking flight.

Each drone is packed with full-color-range LED lights. The drones fly with the help of Intel’s automation software, which allows artists to design aerial animations with hundreds of drones. It’s the type of coordination that would typically take weeks or months, but Intel says its system can design a complex light show in days.

Intel is better known in the drone world for its collision avoidance camera technology, Real Sense, which is used in its industrial-grade Falcon 8 drone, as well as Yuneec’s Typhoon H drone. The system allows drones to weave between obstacles without being piloted, but the new Shooting Star drones aren’t equipped with Real Sense.


Intel

Instead, the drones are completely controlled by the master computer and operator on the ground. The drones don’t communicate with each other either, so they’re not a swarm, but are rather radio controlled.

Although the Shooting Star is the company’s second fully-branded Intel drone — the first was the Falcon 8+ in October — neither is available for sale yet, and the company isn’t sharing how it plans to bring the technology to market.

But Intel is better known for what it packs inside computers, like chips and microprocessors, and is less known for its hardware offerings. So until the company provides clarity about how others can buy and use its drones, the technology could just be a demonstration of what might one day end up in other machines, rather than Intel’s own marketable product.

Shooting Stars can travel up to 22 miles per hour and can fly in light rain.

Watch the video of Intel’s record-breaking flight, featuring 500 drones flying simultaneously under the operation of a single pilot.

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