Disney Sees Drone-Operated Entertainment

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Disney "imagineers" have found some unique uses for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that could eventually see airborne puppets controlled by drones pulling the strings. The company has filed three patent applications to use the increasingly sophisticated little aircraft to widen its entertainment offerings at its theme parks. A couple of the patents address a proposed improvement to the spectacular but apparently limiting use of fountains as an outdoor projection screen. The patents envision using multiple UAS vehicles to hoist lightweight materials that don't have a lot of wind resistance. The materials would act as screens or light diffusers which, working in concert, could create visuals that float in the air or "autonomously work together to deliver an interactive image in three dimensional space," according to Stitch Kingdom. The patents call the image-making light sources floating pixels or "flixels." A third patent would use drones to bring to life Disney characters in the night sky.

The imagineers see using UAS vehicles working in concert to articulate the limbs, joints and other moving parts of gigantic marionettes made of lightweight materials or balloons. Drawings accompanying the patents show dozens of UAS attached to various parts of the huge puppets working together to make it move. The patents do not address the many regulatory roadblocks in the way of these kinds of uses but the investment by Disney may suggest hope that such uses may eventually be legal.