The Great Lakes Drone Company (GLDC) drone light show division is looking to branch out into the fair and festival industry according to Director of Flight Operations, Matt Quinn. The Drone Light Show is certainly a spectacle for any crowd to enjoy. Drone light shows have recently come into popularity; the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show featured one and Intel just conducted a drone light show above the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas.
Quinn says that drone technology is still very new and the GLDC Drone Light Show division only has one other US competitor, Intel. "We just started doing this last year, most people don't know that the technology exists or that shows like this are possible," says Quinn. When asked why a drone light show would be a better alternative to a fireworks show, Quinn simply says it giv
es the fair or festival more control. "Fireworks are great and they will never go away but you can't control a firework once you light it. I can control every movement the drone makes and if it isn't behaving I can just make it land," says Quinn.
GLDC offers the ability for fairs and festivals to make their own custom shows or use one of their two stock shows they've created. While Intel focuses mainly on major performances and high budget shows, GLDC can create a show for any budget, says Quinn. A drone light show can incorporate any-where from 25 drones (for a lower budget event) to 200 drones. The images GLDC can create for the show can be quite detailed.
If a fair or festival opts to create a custom show, Quinn says that they can run that show multiple times. For example, if the fair is 10 days long and the fair wants to run two drone light shows a day, the show will be the same each time, another reason that drone light shows are more reliable than fire-works.
Quinn says that GLDC is currently working with a few different municipalities within their home state of Michigan to create shows for different Summer festivals such as July 4th celebrations. The munici-palities GLDC works with are excited about branding opportunities through the drone light shows. Quinn says they have the capability to end a show with a logo of any kind. If the drone light show is sponsored, they can certainly end the show with that company's logo. Many shows GLDC produces are coordinated with music, voice-overs, or even fireworks. "We encourage our clients to let their im-aginations run wild. We are completely devoted to meeting our client's goals and visions," says Quinn.
GLDC started in 2016 once drone laws had been changed to allow more commercialized drone usage. Like many of the other 70,000 commercial drone pilots in the US, GLDC got into real estate work and mapping projects. In order to stand out in the market, GLDC set out to find a niche, says Quinn. Pro-ducing drone light shows sets GLDC apart from other drone companies. While they do have a competi-tor in Intel, Quinn believes that show size and motivation will keep the two companies running in sepa-rate circles. "Intel will continue to book massive scale shows to promote their company and technology. Our goal is to work with clients of all sizes and really give your company or your fair or festival a show that guests will truly enjoy," says Quinn.
GLDC partnered with a Canadian company, Arrowonics, for their technology and software solutions. Approval from the FAA came in February 2017 and GLDC was able to conduct their first "sneak peek" show in March of 2017. They have done private shows for companies such as Toyota and have also done some public events. While GLDC hasn't reached out into the fair market yet, Quinn feels that the shows they produce would be a perfect fit as an entertainment option.
When planning a show, Quinn says there is a decent amount of planning that needs to go into it. Drone light shows do require some space considerations; "just like firework shows we do need a decent safety perimeter," says Quinn. Additionally, GLDC needs to map out enough air space for the show to be successful. "Running a drone light show in the FAA's eyes is like running Southwest Airlines paper-work wise," says Quinn. GLDC is pre-approved to conduct shows in Class G air space. If the space is not classified as Class G, some coordination and approval may be needed which can take some time. "In a perfect world we would have 90-120 days of lead time before the show to take care of any issues, programming, and designing a great show," says Quinn. However, with good air space, they can pro-duce a show much faster.
All of GLDC's drones are custom built to the specifications of the show including custom LED boards and flight controls. According to Quinn, GLDC's drones are larger than Intel's and about three times as bright; they have a greater fingerprint in the sky. Show prices could range anywhere from $4,000-$250,000 depending on what the client wants. The more shows put on during the event, the cheaper the "per show fee" will be, says Quinn. A regular, full length drone light show is 12-15 minutes from take-off to landing but the show can certainly be extended.
Quinn's biggest message to fairs and festivals potentially interested in booking a drone light show is that GLDC puts their clients first. "We really let our clients be as creative as they can. It's not what we can't do but more about what we haven't tried yet," says Quinn.