A festival celebrating the earliest form of aviation was complemented by the very latest in aviation technology, when drone show specialist Verge Aero performed a series of spectacular light shows for the 50e anniversary Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF) in New Mexico.
Known as “the most photographed event in the world”, the AIBF is a premier celebration of the oldest human aviation technique, the hot air balloon, pioneered by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783 and capturing the imagination ever since. . This year the show drew around 900,000 visitors over its eight days in October – and organizers have, as always, pushed the boundaries of entertainment for their amazed audiences.
“We’ve been interested in drones since we first saw them several years ago at the Superbowl Half-Time,” says AIBF Executive Director Paul Smith. “The cost was just outrageous; we couldn’t afford to do that. Now we’re so happy to have met Verge Aero and Nils Thorjussen – they’ve brought the cost down to a level we can afford, and it’s wonderful!
Although one flight was canceled due to a thunderstorm, the 11-minute show, featuring 300 drones and pre-scheduled by the Verge Aero team, performed eight shows the night and morning just before the launch of the Dawn Patrol balloons. In addition to the hot air balloon and aviation emblems, the aerial display included touches of humor, with the familiar shapes of Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote (thanks to Loony Tunes). Smith comments, “When people see fireworks, you get the ‘Oh‘ and ‘aah‘ – but when they watch the drone show, they’re always a bit livelier!
Verge Aero’s modern aviation expertise even saved the day on several occasions when the wind put a stop to hot air balloon rides and fireworks. On those occasions, thanks to their rugged design, GPS positioning technology, and wind tolerance, drones were the only entertainment in the sky. Smith says: “The event is very weather dependent and we’ve had some challenges this year. That was one of the great things about the Verge Aero drone show: even when we had 15 mph winds, gusting to maybe 20, the drones were going up. This surprised me, as I didn’t think they had that kind of ability, but they were rock solid – their show was perfect.
There were no rough edges visible from a management point of view either. Smith explains, “In any case, when you’re doing something new, there’s a learning curve. . . With Verge Aero – and I hate to sound cliché – but it was totally seamless. We gave them space, they came in, they put on a show – and they were happy about it! There was no work on our part, they do everything themselves.
Nils Thorjussen, CEO of Verge Aero, says: “It was great to be part of such an iconic event. Together with the organizers, we created unique and dynamic content that continually evolved and kept the audience engaged and told a great story. This show really shows how drone shows are a fascinating art form that can be incorporated into a wide variety of applications.
Overall, Verge Aero’s drones made a good impression. “All the former pilots I’ve talked to here think it’s just the coolest thing we’ve ever done. Luckily when I talk to the Verge Aero guys they think the balloons are the coolest thing. cool that they saw – so it’s a good symbiotic relationship!” laughs Smith.
He adds: “I don’t want to hurt myself in future negotiations, but I hope they come back in a few years!