After President-elect Joe Biden launched his victory speech on Nov. 7, Strictly FX launched a drone show to celebrate the former vice president’s win.
With UAS provided by Verge Aero, Strictly FX produced a pyrotechnic and drone show over the celebration in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Del., deploying 200 illuminated, GPS-guided drones to light up the sky with a precisely choreographed display synchronized to Coldplay’s “Sky Full of Stars.”
“The creative on this originated with executive producer Ricky Kirshner of Kirshner Events, who has been the nexus of all the work we’ve done with the DNC,” Strictly FX CEO Ted Maccabee said.
The crowd, already pumped by Biden’s and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ speeches, applauded as the drones danced the sky to display red-white-and-blue stars, Biden’s campaign logo, an American map, the number 46 and Harris’ name. Strictly FX also launched a traditional pyrotechnic show.
Given the uncertainty about the election’s outcome in the days leading up to the event, the team had to work fast to organize the show and work with campaign officials and get authorizations from government agencies.
“Since this was a national security situation, the permissions that we had to get from various government entities were incredibly detailed,” Maccabee said. “Thankfully, we started on this process three weeks ahead of the election, and we were able to wade through all the authorizations in time to create this once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Given the newness of something like a drone show, Verge Aero faced its own set of challenges.
“Naturally, there was a vigorous vetting process to satisfy the authorities that the show could be flown safely,” CEO Nils Thorjussen said. “However, the flexibility and redundancy built into our system allowed us to meet every security request and scenario that was posed to us.”
Drone Show Time
The production team remained on standby from Tuesday to Saturday, as Biden slowly but surely built a narrow electoral lead over President Trump. As Biden continued to win more battleground states, the team worked on a rapid deployment system to launch the drone show at a moment’s notice.
“Our 10-person, East Coast, special-effects team didn’t know if we were even going to be doing the [drone show] until we got the green light from a member of the Biden camp on Saturday night,” Maccabee said. With Biden projected the winner and with zero evidence of alleged election fraud, the show got the green light for a clear, crisp Saturday-evening show.
Due to the uncertainty of the show’s launch date, the team conducted no rehearsals to maintain secrecy and surprise.
“This really speaks to the accuracy and robustness of our flight-planning software. The client was amazed at the accuracy of our pre-show rendering,” Thorjussen said.
“We’ve done numerous presidential campaign events, and this one was especially memorable since we were able to add drones into the mix,” Maccabee said.
Better Than Fireworks?
Given the dangers posed from incendiary fireworks – injuries, fire and pollution – a growing number of event planners are instead trying a drone show as a better solution.
In January, Verge Aero produced a drone light show in Mexico. Working with partner Sky Precision, the company launched an array of 150 drone-mounted lights, creating dancing, multi-color images in the sky during the Festival Internacional del Globo hot-air balloon festival to celebrate Día de Muertos.
In 2018, Travis Air Force Base replaced its traditional fireworks display with a drone light show presented by Intel.