What started as a debate between the managing director of Guinness Breweries, Sir Hugh Beaver, and a hunting party over what was the fastest European game bird in 1951, sparked the idea to create an official record of such matters. Sir Beaver was put in contact with twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter, who operated a fact-finding agency out of London. In August of 1954, the first ever Guinness Book of Records was distributed containing world records on human achievements and extremes of the natural world. 67 years later, with over 53,000 records cataloged, the book itself holds a record for being the best selling copyrighted book of all time.
The book has branched out into multimedia formats including museums, television specials, a website, and a dedicated YouTube channel. With the motto “Officially Amazing”, the annual publication of the Guinness World Records holds some bizarre records, like the “Longest Time Spent in Direct Contact With Ice (January 23, 2009, Wim Hoff, 1 hour 42 minutes and 22 seconds) to the awe inspiring “World’s Oldest Gymnast” (April 12, 2012, Johanna Quaas, age 86). In recent times, human achievements in fields of technology have become a focal point for earning the prestigious Guinness World Record. On September 20, 2020, and December 18, 2020, two major new world records were set involving drone light shows.
The first was set by Shenzhen DAMODA Intelligent Control Technology in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China for the “Most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) Airborne Simultaneously”. This record was first set in 2015 when Intel launched 100 drones in an aerial light show. The following year, Intel broke their record with 500 Shooting Star drones. DAMODA obliterated Intel’s record with 3,051 of their custom built drones. DAMODA has designed three drones to use for light shows, an outdoor and indoor drone, and one with a paper lantern attached to the bottom. With their drones, they have built an entire framework that allows the drones to be operated seamlessly in a swarm. The presentation DAMODA put on for Guinness was an homage to China’s space and technology industry.
The DAMODA show was an amazing feat of how a massive swarm of drones can safely interact with each other. The display featured representations of China’s space station Tiangong-1, Beidou satellite system, and a Mars Rover. When Intel set the record in 2016, Natalie Cheung, Intel Light Show Business Lead explained the importance of setting such records. “We’re showing regulators around the world,” she said, “that UAV technologies used the right ways can help shape new rules for manned and unmanned aerial vehicles.” Meanwhile, the second record set was for a far smaller swarm of drones.
A collaboration between EFYI Group and China’s Tianjin University put on a drone light show for Guinness World Records adjudicator Maggie Luo. Maggie Lou was also the adjudicator for the DAMODA demonstration. The goal was to set the record for the “Longest Animation Performed by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”. To complete the task, the drones had to be choreographed to smoothly animate 12 images per second. As Zhang Siqi, COO of EFYI Group explained, animating drones is different than having them form one image then change to another. It is the art of seamlessly transitioning the drones to tell a complete story. The story the team displayed was a tribute to Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh.
The show appeared more like a film than 600 drones working together. The drones danced across the sky creating an image of Van Gogh among snippets from some of his most famous works like The Starry Night, Sunflower, and Self-Portrait. The 1.45 kg Agile Bee II drones used have a maximum flight time of 38 minutes. In achieving a new Guinness Record, the performance over Tianjin lasted 26 minutes and 19 seconds. “I’ve witnessed three drone attempts in the past, all completely different challenges,” said Maggie Lou. “The latest one was on September 2020, most UAVs airborne simultaneously. However, today’s attempt for the positioning accuracy of the UAV control system put forward higher requirements.”
As Guinness states on their website, “Record-breaking is not easy. It takes grit, determination and dedication, and sometimes involves months of preparation.” For many who are inducted into Guinness’s World Records, it is a badge of honor showcasing their individual or team achievements. But, when technology like drones are being awarded Guinness recognition, this technology is being validated for its usefulness to society. This past year has been extremely trying, and drones have been on hand to help alleviate some of the burdens placed upon the world from COVID-19. Innovative technology supported by Guinness helps to further encourage the application of drones to the benefit of the world.