Sunday, August 24, 2014

Amazing New WDI Patents Shows Quadcopter Drones Used For Flying Screens... or Puppet Masters !

Thanks to Market Watch, the blog of The Wall Street Journal we've learned that Disney Enterprises - WDI - filed three new amazing patents on August 21, just four days ago, and all patents -  applied for by Clifford Wong, James Alexander Stark and Robert Scott
Trowbridge - involve the use of quadcopter drones (UAVs). And these are not the kind of drones firing missiles or spying you, thanks God, as they will be used to deliver more amazement to the guests in Disney parks entertainment productions.

The first two patents cover different methods of producing light shows, either with large, flexible screens lifted by small remote-controlled craft or swarms of drones that are each fitted with a light and act as "flixels" or floating pixels. In one, the screens could be large projection surfaces made of mesh that would allow wind to pass through, or they could actually produce their own images: Disney's application suggests loosely woven strips of LEDs. And thanks to a ground control station they could choreograph repeatable movements.

The first patent called "Optical: systems and elements projection screen moving during projection"  is described as "a system for presenting an aerial display over an audience of spectators. The system includes a plurality of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and a plurality of flexible projection screens. Each of the screens is supportable in a display air space by the UAVs. The system includes a ground control system with a processor executing a fleet manager module and with memory storing a different flight plan for each of the UAVs. During operation during a display time period, the UAVs execute the flight plans to move and to position the flexible projection screens within the display air space. The flexible projection screens each may include a mesh body configured to have low wind resistance and to provide a projection surface for reflecting light. The system may include a projector projecting light onto the projection surface of at least one of the flexible projection screens during the display time period."

FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary aerial display system of the present description during use to provide an aerial light show with a number of UAVs supporting a flexible projection screen or scrim within a display air space;

FIG. 5 is a partial view of a flexible projection screen configured as a emissive display that may be positioned with UAVs in a display air space

The drones would be able to detect each other and work in concert, according to a central program. In two of the images, they're even carrying huge ribbons around a Disney castle!
FIGS. 6A and 6B show an aerial display system of one embodiment at two operating states (or operating at two sequential points in time during an aerial light show or display) showing use of UAVs to move and position flexible projection screens/scrims.


The next patent is described as "a system for performing an aerial display. The system includes a plurality of UAVs each including a propulsion device and a display payload, and the system includes a ground station system with a processor executing a fleet manager module and memory storing a different flight plan and a set of display controls for the UAVs. Then, wherein, during a display time period, the UAVs concurrently execute the flight plans through operation of the propulsion devices and operate the display payloads based on the display controls. The display payloads each include a lighting assembly and a light controller. The output light is one of a two or more colored light streams, and each of the display payloads further may include a light diffuser with the output light being directed onto a surface of the light diffuser. The light diffuser may include a light diffusing screen extending about the lighting assembly."

Here, the patent indicates that drones could even potentially replace fireworks, which can be dangerous and inconsistent. Instead, the patent calls for an aerial display system based on the floating pixel, or “flixel.” Each drone would carry a lighting assembly that could display images or colors, making use of the sky as a screen. The other option would see the drones carrying lights that would change color as needed, letting an operator program them to make pictures or abstract displays that look like fireworks.



FIGS. 4 and 5 illustrate an exemplary aerial display system of the present description during use to provide an aerial light show with numerous flixels (flying pixels assemblies)




FIG. 7 is a perspective view of an exemplary flixel or flying pixel assembly including a multicopter with a display payload providing a lighting assembly and display screen in the form of a light diffusion cylinder



The two first patents looks already great tech but this third one will amaze you as it indicates a use even more amazing of drones that could be used to hold giant puppets during parks entertainment. With the drones, these larger-than-life puppets could be mounted with rods to fly through the air!

Here is its description: "a system for performing an aerial display. The system includes a plurality of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and a ground control system with a processor executing a fleet manager module and with memory storing a different flight plan for each of the UAVs. The system further includes a marionette with a body and articulatable appendages attached to the body. The body and appendages are supported with tether lines extending between the marionette and the UAVs. Then, during a display time period, the UAVs concurrently execute the flight plans to position and articulate the marionette within a display air space. In some embodiments, the UAVs each is a multicopter, and each of the multicopters includes a local controller operating to move the multicopter through a series of way points defined by the flight plan associated with the multicopter."



FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary aerial display system during operation to support and articulate an aerial marionette within a display air space

FIG. 5 illustrates another aerial display system showing UAVs manipulating and supporting an aerial marionette via puppet frame elements in the arms and torso of the marionette



“This is a significant improvement over prior flying characters, which typically were provided in the form of parade or other blimps/balloons filled with hot air or other gases and that had little and/or awkward articulation of any movable parts,” according to the patent.


FIG. 7 illustrates an embodiment of an aerial display system in which each "marionette" is supported and articulated by one or more UAVs is configured to be combined with a one-to-many other "marionettes" to form a larger marionette/display assembly, which can then be further moved about the display air space and/or articulated by the UAVs

All what shows these patents looks indeed technologically amazing and if it can really works in reality it surely will stun Disney theme parks guests. But - and it's a big "but" - the use of these flying quadcopter drones as great as they can be might become a problem when there would be a wind strong enough to destabilize them... And, as Disney points out, the quadcopters could be more flexible than ordinary displays but safer and more predictable than fireworks... as long as they're able to minimize the risk of one accidentally falling out of the sky.

So, what do you think of these mazing new WDI patents?

Editing: Forbes Magazine has posted an article written by a drones specialist called "Four Things You Need To Know About Disney's Drones" and i think you should have a read of it HERE.

Pictures: copyright Disney Enterprises

7 comments:

Anonymous said...


I can see a possible problem. What will happen when one drone fails? Also how long could they stay airborne?

Thomas Schelkens said...

I think they will maybe use the technology of the flying flexible screens when they, for example, want to unveil the finished Shanghai castle?

It are good ideas and I hope they can make it work. They can still improve the UAVs, and with those cool ideas, they will improve them.

ps. I can see the flixels already floating through the sky during Dreams!

Kenny said...

That would be a good way to celebrate the 50th anniversary in a few years.

Anonymous said...

“Rivers of Light” promises to be an innovative show unlike anything ever seen in Disney Parks, combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery.


Maybe the floating lanterns in Rivers of Light will be Drones?

Anonymous said...

I don´t know the US laws, but in Europe, doing sth like this would break several laws at once (the most important being that you simply cannot have a drone fly over or near people on the ground).

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea...until one of the drones fails (as was mentioned previously) and comes crashing down into a giant crowd of people. Can you say class-action injury lawsuit and public relations nightmare?

I don't see Disney pressing forward with this, personally. Thank you for sharing though!

Marco Antonio Garcia said...

This look amazing, but I can also see drones crashing against each other in a strong and sudden blast of wind.

I also like the good old fireworks, and I don't think that flying drones can provide the same effect.