Olympics Opening Ceremony Broadcast Will Feature 1,200 Drones

Torchbearers pass the Olympic flame to a drone during the PyeongChang 2018 Torch Relay in Seoul on January 13, 2018. Cheering crowds welcomed the Olympic flame to a freezing Seoul on January 13, where the torch will be paraded for four days before making its way to Pyeongchang for the start of the Winter Games. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

Pyeongchang, South Korea — The Olympic rings, a symbol of the games for more than 100 years, will receive a high-tech presentation at Friday’s opening ceremony.

A flight of more than 1,200 automated Intel drones — a world record — will appear in the shape of the five rings during Friday’s kickoff broadcast of the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Intel pre-taped the flock of drones on a Korean ski slope in December, but attendees were treated to a smaller 300-drone display on site at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.

During Friday’s evening broadcast, Intel will also organize the drones to resemble a snowboarder racing down a slope. In another part of the taped segment, they will align to resemble a huge bird that’s flapping its wings.

Related: Intel’s drones could be the first step toward flying billboards

Intel’s drones are large LED lights with propellers and sensors attached. They weigh less than a pound. Computer software is used to coordinate where each drone flies, and whether it is lit up.

“The Olympics is all about pushing boundaries,” Anil Nanduri, general manager of Intel’s Drone Group told CNN Tech. “We wanted to do something the world has never seen before.”

The performance requires three employees to monitor the drones, and Olympic volunteers to help set them up. One human employee, dubbed the pilot, hits a button on a computer to launch the automated show.

The tech company is planning daily drone performances for attendees throughout the Winter Games that will last for three to five minutes, weather permitting.

Intel, which believes its drones could one day replace fireworks, tested its drones in Finland to prepare for the cold temperatures in Pyeongchang.

The demonstrations are a significant advancement from Intel’s earliest drone light shows, which began in 2016. It’s now executed 160 shows — from Singapore’s 2017 National Day Parade to the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — in more than 10 countries.

In addition, its drones were featured in a pre-taped segment for the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show featuring Lady Gaga. The drones swirled above Gaga and took the shape of the U.S. flag as she sung God Bless America.

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