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Drone Light Shows – Women Leading the Way: Southern Hemisphere’s Largest Drone Show

Jules Blundell
Jules Blundell
25 May 2022
Sue Osbourne doing a radio call at the Elevate Drone Light Show in Sydney

Women leading the way

The Southern Hemisphere’s largest drone display combined art and technology to convey Greater Sydney’s story as 500 drones danced and zoomed around the night sky in the southern hemisphere’s largest drone show, as part of the ELEVATE Festival held from 1st-5th January 2022.

Four women teamed up to help make this show a success.

  • Dani Napier, Intel Drone Light Shows General Manager at Intel Corporation.
  • Sue Osbourne, Head of Flight Operations and Senior Consultant at Mirragin Consulting
  • Olivia Bradley, Senior Producer AGB Events 
  • Shilpa Patel, Program Manager, Intel Drone Light Shows

Each of these women brought their own experience, knowledge and 21st century skills to bring this unique display to Sydney.  

drone light show all female team

Expert women-led team

Dani Napier Harrison began her work with Intel after completing university as a Chemical Engineer. She has a saying “If you see a problem or an opportunity, you go after it.” and this has lead her to her current job as Intel Drone Light Shows General manager at Intel Corporation.

Olivia Bradley is involved in events as Senior Producer for AGB Events. AGB like to tell unusual stories, ones that are not usually told, using advanced technologies. With a team of creatives including Anthony Bastic – Creative Director, First Nations Advisor Rhoda Roberts AO, Rhyan Clapham (DOBBY) and Charles Clapshaw of Futures of Art, a renowned augmented reality artist. Visitors scanned QR codes on site to have access to additional visual elements that enhanced their live experience.

Sue Osbourne became involved in UAS in Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the Australian Army which allowed her to develop a range of skills and knowledge. In January 2021, she left the Army and joined Mirragin as a Senior Consultant and Head of Flight Operations, and is now the Chief Remote Pilot for Intel Drone Light Shows in Australia.

Shilpa Patel managed and provided a comprehensive drone operations plan, risk assessment with AGB Events and CASA to ensure authorisation of drone activities, prepared a virtual and physical site survey & evaluation, managed team, and installation of each show, and coordinated on behalf of Intel (animation, show execution, rehearsals, and shipping).

Shilpa has been involved with the drone light show program management and operations since 2017 managing hundreds of shows since Intel started the drone light shows in 2015 including the Radio City Rockettes in NYC (222 indoor shows), Intel’s 50th Anniversary (Guinness World Record with 2066 Classic drones) and the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony (1824 Premium drones).

About Intel Drone Light Shows

Intel began looking at how drones can be used to create light shows 6-7 years ago. It all started with simple shapes such as hearts and flowers and has evolved into the intricate designs that were seen in the inaugural ELEVATE SkyShow.

This show featured a First Nations story, combined word art, spelling out phrases such as ALWAYS WILL BE and GADIGAL, and included images such as a flying cockatoo, and a surfer girl all combined with an uplifting soundtrack including orchestral sounds, energetic beats, and indigenous language, bringing First Nations culture to the forefront. 

How did the planning work for the drone light show?

From initial drawings, to storyboard, software development and flight there are many tasks that need to be completed.  

Convincing Destination NSW that a drone show was a good idea was the first stepping stone that had to be dealt with, but there were other challenges that the team come up against including flying drones to CASA regulations, closing down Sydney Harbour and the Cahill Expressway, stopping ferries, marine operation plans, booking the Overseas Passenger Terminal and gaining the permission to transmit the soundtrack through the same speakers that were used for the New Year’s Eve fireworks show. All of this needed to be managed during the pandemic!

What about the drone light show regulations?

Intel has piloted performances all over the world, including the Tokyo Olympics. It was their second time performing in Australia under the new CASA ReOC requirements. So they had to get remotely piloted aircraft operator’s certificate (ReOC) under the employment of a pilot with a remote pilot licence (RePL).  

It was a tough education, but Intel and their pilots gained their RePL and the ReOC with the help of AviaAssist and worked under Mirragin with Sue Osbourne as Chief Remote Pilot.  Sue’s management skills and UAV knowledge were invaluable as the shows were performed each night of ELEVATE.

Drone Light Show - Interviews

She Maps had the pleasure of interviewing three of the key women involved in producing the ELEVATE Drone Light Show. (Shilpa was on a well deserved holiday at the time the interviews took place). Their stories are captivating and empowering. 

Below is a highlights video and to watch the full videos, you will need to have a current She Maps Membership.

For schools, these videos are a great way to share with your students the complexity of working on such an exciting and critical production, where problem-solving, critical thinking and collaboration were key priorities for everyone involved.

sue osborn mirragin consulting high
olivia bradley high
dani napier general manager intel drone light shows high

The future of drones

Drone Shows are becoming increasingly popular and are occurring in countries all over the world.  The careers that are being formed because of these projects are evolving as we speak.

It’s not just in flying drones, but managing events, creating the ideas, identifying safety regulations and many other careers that are either supported by drones or are the support for drones.

Drone Show at Vivid Sydney – May 2022

Look up – in awe and wonder! (click to view the article)

“For one night only over Sydney’s magnificent harbour, Vivid Sydney teams with Paramount+ to present the largest drone light show ever seen in the Southern Hemisphere.

Transforming our wintery evening sky into a sprawling canvas, a fleet of 600 perfectly choreographed LED-equipped drones shape shift and synchronise into enormous 3D images and sequences. Through swarm dynamics and SKYMAGIC’s wizardry, you’ll recognise superstars and characters from Paramount’s movies and entertainment as the drones fly in illuminated formations.

Thrill to the sweeping and hovering points of light in a performance designed to delight the whole family. All you need to do is look up!”

Which Drone Light Show did a better job do you think?

About She Maps.

She Maps is Australia’s leading expert in drone and geospatial education. 

She Maps assist schools with the purchasing of drones, school-industry created drone and geospatial teaching resources and highly supportive teacher professional development.

You’re in Safe Hands!
She Maps is a CASA approved commercial operator to fly microdrones indoors with students and teachers. CASA holds commercial operators, to a higher standard than recreational users and educators. This means that She Maps has been assessed by CASA as having rigorous training and risk mitigation procedures in place.

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