A little shy of 100 nations came together to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics being held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The opening ceremonies which were held on the eve of February 9th were watched by more than 28 million viewers. For those watching the ceremony on TV, they were treated to a drone show unlike any most had ever seen. Due to safety concerns, the show was pre-recorded and broadcast into the live ceremony, but this did not make it any less thrilling. The show, presented by Intel, broke world records as they released 1,218 Shooting Star drones into the night sky. Shooting Star drones are miniature drones with LED lights that can be coordinated and synchronized to complete complex patterns in the sky.
Audiences around the world were mesmerized by the images created by the drones, complemented by a musical overture. The images created included a snowboarder racing along, a peaceful dove flapping its wings, and of course the 5 interlocking rings that symbolize the Olympic games. While this drone display was far from the first of it’s kind, it was the first to reach such a massive audience. Since then drone light shows, sometimes called digital fireworks, have become more and more popular. Many townships have replaced standard firework shows with these impressive drone shows to help protect the environment. In dry, fire prone climates, a drone show can prevent wildfires. These types of shows also help to prevent further stress on military vets who suffer from PTSD, as well as keep countless dogs calm. This past week, South Korea once again awed its citizens and the world with an impressive drone show.
The drone show lit up the night sky over the Han River in the capital of Seoul on Friday, July 6, 2020. For about 10 minutes 300 drones danced across the sky in an event sponsored by the South Korean government. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport who organized the show, the goal was to lift the spirits of the citizens and thank all those working in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus. South Korea’s infrastructure has done an amazing job of containing the spread of COVID-19. They have been organized and systematic, resulting in extraordinary low infection and death rates. For a nation that is densely populated with over 50 million people, South Korea has only seen 13,000 people become infected with COVID-19. Of those infected only 284 lives have been claimed. In comparison, the state of Indiana, which has a similar land mass to South Korea, has a population of just under 7 million people. Since the outbreak began, Indiana has confirmed 49,560 cases of COVID-19 resulting in the deaths of over 2,698 people.
Though officials around the world warn of a second wave of infection rates, clearly the protocols being observed in South Korea have gone a long way to keep people healthy and safe. The drone show was a perfect way to lift morale and thank those on the front lines battling COVID-19. To ensure that large groups did not gather, something that could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport did not advertise the show in advance. Instead, they surprised the few venturing outside, and the many more looking out their windows, with a drone show that they simultaneously broadcast live on YouTube. The live broadcast was also accompanied by music and a view of all the drones lined up on the ground while an announcer gives words of praise and thanks. The drones lift off and gather into their first formation, a glowing grid that morphs into an image of a face mask surrounded by blasting fireworks.
The drones continue to effortlessly realign into images of a man and woman wearing a mask and facing each other with an arrow above their heads. The arrow and the couple space apart, symbolizing the need to keep 6 feet apart from one another. There was also an image of hands with drops of water raining down on them to remind people to wash their hands, a giant red heart with the words “Thanks To You”, and an outline of the country of South Korea with the words “Cheer Up Republic of Korea” spelled out in Korean.
The drone show ended with the drones forming the flag of South Korea, then raining down in a cascade of red, blue, and white before returning to the ground. The images created by the drones were incredibly crisp and accurate. As if they had been painted across the sky rather than being formed by hundreds of swarming drones. Since the beginning of this pandemic, drones have been called upon to assist people more than ever. They are being used to disinfect surfaces, deliver medications and goods, and even to keep certain industries, like inspections, flowing smoothly. Now, they have been used to cheer people up and express gratitude. As the South Korean government stated in the official video posted on YouTube, “Thank you for the efforts of the people and medical staff. We express our gratitude and respect to all who suffer from Covid-19.” It is messages like this that will lead to the mental healing of many and encourage them to continue what they are doing to stay healthy.