A drone light show celebrating Hainan’s International Tourism Carnival became a nightmare for some spectators as dozens of drones plummeted to the ground.
The 300 drones were produced by Chinese manufacturer High Great and were following a preprogrammed route above a large crowd in Haikou, South China. The light show kicked-off the beginning of the month-long tourism festival and had only ran a short period before things started to go wrong.
The performance began well enough, with the mass of drones rising in synchronicity and beginning to perform a routine involving patterns, shapes and colors.
From videos shot by spectators in the crowd, it is clear that the drones suddenly malfunctioned and were flying in many different directions (which is not ideal when they are supposed to be in synch. A man shooting a video of the performance from his phone filmed as a drone lands just feet away from him and people in the crowd can be heard screaming.
What went wrong on this occasion?
Representatives of High Great have said that magnetic interference is responsible for the drones malfunctioning. The exact source of the inference is not yet known and we are also unsure whether it was intentionally caused. If that was the case – the plot will thicken considerably.
Thankfully, nobody was injured in all the kerfuffle. Backup drones were quickly fetched and the second iteration of the light show went off without a hitch just two hours later.
Should people be worried about future drone light shows?
In general – light shows have been very safe. They have been so well received in the last year or so that it had led some to speculate whether they might replace fireworks at public events in the future.
We should note that light show drones are generally small, light-weight and have prop guards. Therefore, the chance of actually being injured by one is fairly small. One could theoretically hit you directly in the eye and that would be nasty. In September, TechCrunch author Matt Burns wrote about how an Intel Shooting Star Mini drone hit him in the head during an Audi event launching one of their electric cars. He described it as being like “a small cardboard box on my head. It felt sharp and light.”
Whether they can cause severe injuries or not, the idea of drones falling on people is far from ideal. We’ll be interested to hear exactly what caused the inference that made the drones malfunction. Whatever it is, we hope its resolved as soon as possible so people can enjoy beautiful drone light shows.