It’s hard to combine drones and sports, unless, you’re thinking about shooting at drones as a target practice…
We, however, found another way – we created and staged a fully automatic drone performance, the drones pretended to be…… basketballs! The show, designed in association with the Interactive Lab and “PitCH Group,” was held during VTB United League All-Star Game in Saint Petersburg. For the first time in Russia, a 12-drone-choreography (exactly the size of the basketball team) was shown at the Yubileyny Sports Palace. Machines took to the air during the time-out between the third and the fourth quarter of the final of The All-Star Game and performed a four-minute dance.
Large drones were dressed in hand-made costumes, stylized to resemble basketballs. And not just any balls – specifically for The All-Star Game, Sibur and Wilson collaborated to create Eco-basketballs – the orange-and-blue balls made from recycled plastic. LED lights on drones’ costumes (diameter -23 inches) were glittering, matching the colors pallet of the balls.
Well, it wasn’t just glittering. It was more of the choreography of color, where different movements of the drones were complemented by certain colors. We designed electronics that allowed us to synchronize figures in flight with color arrangement. For this purpose, every drone was equipped with about 500 LED lights! The flight trajectory commands and the color pattern commands were both transmitted via the same channel, which resulted in total coherence between the two.
To achieve great precision in the “Yubileyny” choreography, we installed 16 infrared cameras that determined the location of each and every drone. The installation of the cameras in the enormous Palace of Sports was not an easy undertaking – we had to employ industrial alpinists.
And still, even when all the cameras were installed and set, the unanticipated challenge had emerged. Other presenters at the event, had their equipment installed as well (often, not in the places that were agreed upon) and that obscured the view for some of our cameras. That didn’t stop us, we quickly remounted some of the cameras and cleared their view.
We faced a particular challenge because nearly 10 thousand people have come to watch the game, majority of which had their cell phones on, and went online. Moreover, the “Match TV” channel was broadcasting live using tons of cameras. All of it together jammed our signal, making it impossible to use regular WIFI. Nevertheless, the special radio channel that we created to transmit the data solved the issue.
In the end, our drones had captivated audience no worse than best basketballers of Europe.
Anton Solomin, the famous basketball observer on“Match TV”Anton Solomin noted: “It was spectacular and even a bit scary! We’ve never been that close to the actual Rise of Machines. For the majority of the audience, the show turned out to be a real shocker. Nobody has ever witnessed anything quite like it.