The sky’s the limit for our creativity, says ambitious firm behind Bristol’s first major drone light show

December 1, 2023

The team behind Bristol’s first spectacular drone light show have spoken of their plans to get even bigger and bolder events off the ground in the future.

Creative company Celestial and Yuup, the Bristol-based local experiences company, have teamed up to bring the show, called Evolution, to the city over three evenings in the run-up to Christmas. 

Some 500 drones will dramatically light up the night sky above Bristol’s Seat Unique Stadium in a performance that will take audiences on a mesmerising journey through space and time.

Fusing cutting-edge technology and creativity, the narrated story with an accompanying original cinematic soundtrack starts with the Big Bang and journeys into the emergence of the sun and the solar system before looking at how life began on Earth – and, via the dinosaurs, to the challenges that humans have created for the future of the planet.

But ahead of a sneak peak for residents and VIPs this week, Celestial said as the technology used in the performance was at the very start of its own journey but was evolving rapidly.

While Evolution features 500 drones, the technology is moving so fast that performances with 5,000 will soon be possible, John Hughes, co-founder and CCO of Frome-based Celestial said.

The firm’s co-founder and CEO Tony Martin used the exponential growth of gaming technology to illustrate what Celestial sees as the future of drone-based events.

“It’s still in its infancy,” he said. “It’s like the first handheld games consoles. Remember the Gameboy? It had 8-bit graphics. But it will advance to the [64-bit] Playstation 5.”

The tech advances will be in the programming of the events, he added, rather than the drones – describing those used in Evolution as “essentially flying lightbulbs”.

The system ensures they know how to position themselves in the sky – in Evolution they stay at least 1.5m apart – while there is also a ‘geo fence’ around the performance area that prevents any drone from flying outside it.

Each performance is overseen by two pilots.

Celestial was launched by a group of professionals from the music and film industries and Tony said the process of putting together a drone show was very similar to the way a production company makes a film.

“We start by writing a script, then a storyboard, which plans out everything. We then take it to our animation department and then our operations department,” he said.

“It’s a big operation and it pulls together a lot of people to make it work.”

Celestial, which was launched three years ago is best known for the super-premium drone shows it has staged for some of the biggest brands and events, including Eurovision and London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Drone light shows had huge advantages over traditional firework displays, said John.

“They don’t release carbon into the atmosphere, they don’t start wildfires or frighten animals,” he said. “And the drones are recharged using renewable energy.”

The preview of Evolution was launched by West of England Metro Mayor Dan Norris, who said he was proud Bristol was one of just two cities – along with Wolverhampton – staging Evolution.

“It just goes to show that when it comes to attracting the country’s biggest and best creatives, we’re right up there leading,” he added.

Tickets for the Bristol shows on 19, 20 and 21 December and the show at Wolverhampton Racecourse on 14 December are available from Yuup.

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