Drones are Coming to Disney Skies – Sooner Than You Might Think

Yesterday, Disney Parks announced that the “idea of ‘wishing upon a star’ will take on an even more magical meaning in the skies of Disney Springs” this upcoming holiday season.

What does this mean, exactly? Though the vague Disney blog does not offer more insight beyond a 24-second video showing a sky full of aesthetically pleasing, lit objects being controlled from the ground, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirms what the most magical place on earth has up its sleeve: a light show comprising a fleet of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

On Nov. 1, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. Inc. received a waiver under Part 107 to operate UAS at night, as well as operate multiple UAS at once. (These and other types of flights, including those taking place beyond the visual line of sight, require an additional waiver from the agency.)

According to the FAA’s waiver document, Disney has “established adequate mitigations for risks” involved with operating multiple UAS at night. The FAA says Disney’s waiver application “details the specifics of the company’s risk mitigations based on their prior flight testing, technology, operational history, and flight experience with these unique [small unmanned aircraft] and specific operations.”

In a Section 333 exemption submitted to the FAA back in October 2015 (the way to apply for commercial drone operations before Aug. 29 of this year), Disney stated that its “Imagineers” have been exploring UAS and how they can be “incorporated into new and innovative forms of entertainment.” In turn, the company said it has “spent years researching, developing, testing and refining UAS technology with the goal of bringing the magic of UAS to the public.”

In the exemption request, Disney dubbed its drones “Flixels,” which are “based on traditional UAS platforms and include advanced control and positioning technology, onboard sensors (gyroscopes, accelerometers, GPS, barometers, magnetometers), and advanced wireless communication solutions.”

Disney added that its aim was to “bring Flixels to life as an element of spectacular live shows” at both Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

Specifically, according to Disney’s newest blog, visitors at Disney Springs – which is part of Disney World – will be the first to experience Flixels firsthand.

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