Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Coordinated , Animated, Aerial Swarm Display

For use at large outdoor spectator events.
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A fleet of nearly a million colored, sparkling lights lifts off from a huge grid of simple launchers that has been towed into the center of the stadium. As the lights go out, the crowd oohs and aahs as 100 foot tall, 3d images of the rival mascots wrestle above the playing field. Suddenly the image dissolves and reforms as a colossal rotating trophy. The digital fireworks continue like this for around ten minutes, when overtaxed LiPo batteries begin to give out. The fleet lands, and the half time show is over.

A typical cheap RC plane costs around 20 dollars. Without the markup I'm sure is present in that price, but including the additional power needed for towing a ten light string, I would guess each of the 87,500 aircraft might cost around 40 dollars. The computing power needed to individually control the aircraft could be rented, and the three high resolution cameras tracking the aircraft's positions would have nearly negilible cost in the overall project. This leads to a crude budget estimate of around 4,000,000 dollars to create the reusable display.

While this seems incredibly expensive, it is well under the price of one minute of Super Bowl advertising.

quadmaster, Nov 20 2011

Flyfire http://senseable.mit.edu/flyfire/
Each helicopter contains small LEDs and acts as a smart pixel. [xaviergisz, Nov 20 2011]

Chess Hive ChessHive
[theircompetitor, Nov 21 2011]

[link]






       With the current research into both robotic 'insects' and cyborg (computer controllable live) insects, this could be done even better than 'light strings under aircraft'.
neutrinos_shadow, Nov 20 2011
  

       This would be better with microcopters, a new-ish breed of tiny (6" dia) UAVs that can both hover and make extreme maneuvers very quickly. Each one in the swarm could carry a cluster of HI-LEDs. They're a little pricey, but I say if you're gonna spend a shit-ton of money, spend it right.
Alterother, Nov 20 2011
  

       Wow, good find [xaviergisz].   

       87,000 control channels? I guess if you give each one an IP address it can be done.
Voice, Nov 21 2011
  

       I think you would be much better off using fixed wing vehicles for the lights than RC helicopeters, simply because of speed and battery life. The fastest I've seen an RC helicopter in the 20 dollar price range go is a slow walk, while Foam RC airhogs often can get around 20 mph. For a staduim sized, dynamic display, a slow walk isn't good enough.
quadmaster, Nov 21 2011
  

       I would like to see someone paint the wingtips of a swarm of starlings with a radiant luminescent substance, and then record the effect when thousands of the birds unite to soar, swivel, spiral and dive in unison. I never fail to be awed by their precision flying skills when swarming in the twilight.   

       If one could train the starlings to perform on cue like racing pigeons, then you would have the makings of a terrific half-time act for spectator events. And I imagine the cost would be mere pennies per bird.
jurist, Nov 21 2011
  
      
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