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The night sky above Walt Disney World will soon be buzzing with excitement. And drones. The FAA has approved Disney’s request to allow unmanned drones to fly over both the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. The new approval means that Disney can move ahead with all new shows using drones and LED technology over the theme parks, resorts and other entertainment districts. The new system that is being used is called Flixels, and it could be coming as soon as the end of this year!
The Federal Aviation Administration granted the company a waiver last week that will allow the flying of drones over the parks and resorts. The decision overturns Walt Disney World's status as a no-fly zone. This status was established in 2003 as a cautionary measure after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those same zones were quoted in the new request to allow drones, stating that they would not “interrupt national airspace activity.” The new zones will allow drones to fly over water, or restricted areas that guests are not allowed in, as long as they stay within at least 100 feet of all guest areas at all times.
So what is Flixels? According to the certificate that was issued this week, the system will be comprised of multiple small aircraft, working on a unified computer system. This is the exact system that Disney applied a patent for a few years back. In that patent, the drones would carry LED lights and screens and would fly in formations that would mimic fireworks and other light-based entertainment. The drones will have a max distance of about 150 feet off the ground, which will make it very easy for guests to see from viewing areas.
Instead of having huge fireworks displays, which require massive prep areas and pose risks such as fire and noise, the drones will perform a show based set to music. You could see anything from simulated fireworks, to massive characters in flight in the air, to even simulated space fights (for example Star Wars). The new system could revolutionize nighttime and daytime entertainment. Another use that was being patented was in parades. The drones would act as puppet masters above giant marionettes and would literally walk them down the street.
This all sounds great, but knowing how things work this is years away, right? Actually, Disney just announced that this Christmas a new show will happen at Disney Springs!
Disney’s newly revamped entertainment district is getting a massive new Christmas spectacular that involves lights, characters and even Santa. Now guests will be able to look to the stars, as drones will take the sky in a dazzling new display. While there isn't an exact start date on the show, it is looking to help kick off the first ever Christmas event at Disney Springs. Imagine the spirit of Christmas whirring and shining above you, as you shop and dine at Disney's newest guest experience.
If the show is successful, it will be used at not only Disney Springs, but also at the resorts hotels, and eventually in parks.
If the idea of drones has you in a panic, don’t worry. There’s no way that Disney would replace their iconic fireworks shows. Instead of replacing them, Disney will use the technology to add more shows to places where fireworks are either not possible, or not practical. Places like each one of Disney’s hotels could get their own show, and you could even see them pop up in certain sections of the parks as fill ins between larger shows during busier times. It’s only one way that Disney is using more and more technology to bring even more guests to their parks. In the next few years you’ll see not only more drones, but tons of new technology as Disney races to bring new experiences to life.
EDIT 12:06 p.m. ET 11/7/2016 This article was updated to reflect Disney's confirmation of a new show utilizing drones.