With just a click of a mouse, a swarm of drones will take to the skies at this year’s National Day Parade (NDP), where they will perform a five- minute drone light show.

With 300 drones up in the air at the same time, it will be the first drone show in NDP and the largest in South-east Asia.

They will form seven main formations during the fifth act at NDP: an arrow, a heart with a crescent and five stars, an outline of Singapore island, the Merlion, children, the NDP 2017 logo and a hashtag.

The Shooting Star drones, developed and manufactured by Intel, were designed for aerial formations and light shows made up of hundreds of drones flying together and flashing their lights.

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“The intent of the drone show this year is to inspire Singaporeans to think about the immense opportunities the future brings,” said Colonel Tan Tiong Keat, chairman of the NDP 2017 Show and D3 Committee yesterday, when the drone demonstration was performed for the first time at a National Education Show.

D3 stands for the Dynamic Defence Display segment, where the drone display takes place.

He added: “Act five of the show, Progressing Together, charts our journey as one nation, one compassionate society.”

Safety was one of the reasons the NDP committee opted for Intel’s drones, made of lightweight plastic and foam. Miss Natalie Cheung, Intel’s general manager for drone light shows, said: “There are a few different safety features for the drone. There’s a propeller cage, made of soft plastic. The drone is also very light at 330g, so the impact energy is low.”

She added: “There are also software safety features, such as a two-level geofence… If a drone were ever to move outside of its position or path, it will come back from the first geofence. If it hits the second one, the motor will shut off and the drone just drops.”

The drones will not hover over the audience but over the waters at Marina Bay. Each is equipped with built-in LED lighting that can create over four billion colour combinations. They can stay airborne for up to 20 minutes before their batteries deplete.

All 300 drones are controlled from a single computer, using specialised software that lets the NDP team create formations ahead of the show. The software automatically calculates the number of drones needed, how each drone should be positioned relative to others, and the fastest route from ground to sky needed for the formation.

Last year, Intel demonstrated a light show consisting of 500 such drones flying in formation.

This year, the drones were put to commercial use in the United States, such as during singer Lady Gaga’s performance at the Super Bowl half-time show in February.

To ensure audience safety, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has established the Marina Bay Floating Platform and surrounding areas as temporary restricted areas for aerial activities.

This prohibits aerial activities such as kite-flying, hoisting of captive balloons and flying of drones at those areas during NDP rehearsals, previews and the Aug 9 parade, unless authorised by the CAAS.


Merlion takes to the sky, via drones

Singapore’s iconic Merlion flew high in the sky last night – thanks to 300 Intel drones during a National Education Show for the upcoming National Day Parade on Aug 9. The drones will perform a five-minute show – the first drone show at the NDP and the largest in South-east Asia. They will form seven main designs: an arrow, a heart with a crescent and stars, an outline of Singapore island, the Merlion, children, the NDP 2017 logo and a hashtag.

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