Disney Files Drone Patents

There are so many potential uses for unmanned aerial vehicles, and yet I continue to be amazed when someone comes up with a completely new use for drones that never even occurred to me. Thank you Disney. That’s right, the Walt Disney Company has applied for not one, but three patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

What could Disney possibly need drones for? To spy on rival theme parks? Shoot groundbreaking new footage for “Planes 2”? Keep out the pigeons? The real answer might be more interesting still.

mickey mouse-shaped droneThese patents, filed by the company’s subsidiary Disney Enterprises on August 21st, 2104, envision the possible use of drones in the bland-sounding “aerial display systems”. But if you look at these patents more closely, what this really means is that Disney parks might soon be bringing a whole new mind-blowing dimension to their parades and light shows.

Disney’s first patent focuses on using aerial drones to move and position flexible mesh projection screens within a designated display air space. These lightweight screens could then be used to display ever-changing lights or images in the sky.

drones flying around Cinderella's castle
Is there a gigantic color-changing tree enveloping Cinderella’s castle? It could be all part of a show brought to you by drones

The second patent outlines the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to create a “floating pixel”, christened the “flixel” by Disney Imagineers.  In this case the drone itself provides the light source – no screen needed. This concept could augment or possibly even replace the fireworks the parks use now on a nightly basis. After all, digital fireworks would be safer,  more precise, and less expensive.

flixel drone
Conceptual drawing of an aerial display system with floating pixels

The third patent application might be the most wild UAV concept of all. Imagine those giant balloons from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on steroids. Multiple drones would attach to these kinds of balloons to make them move. Or take it a step further: the drones could attach to the limbs of super large puppets and make those move, enabling the puppets to appear to walk.

drone-controlled puppet
Aerial display system with marionettes articulated and supported by airborne devices
giant jack skellington puppet
So basically a giant, drone-powered Jack Skellington walking through Disneyland? Bring it on.

Of course, one of the interesting things about all three of these patents is that for any of them to work correctly, very tight coordination of many UAVs would be crucial.  To address this, Disney’s Research & Development team is working to create a ground control station,  incorporating a command and control system that could choreograph a selection of repeatable aerial maneuvers. What other uses could an enterprising individual find for such a system? It boggles the mind.

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