Drone light shows are a modern-day spectacle. Hundreds of drones fly in perfect coordination, creating stunning patterns in the night sky. We’ve seen drone light shows decorate the 2020 Olympic Games. Chinese company Shenzhen Damoda Intelligent Control Technology Co., Ltd. even broke the world record by flying 3,051 drones. These shows are incredibly popular in China. However, there have been several mishaps. Here’s a look at the drone shows that did not go according to plan.

Zhengzhou Drone Light Show

In October 2021, a drone show went south when 200 drones came crashing down in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou. The drone light show was organized by a shopping complex in the city, on the occasion of China’s National Day holiday.

Originally tweeted by Sheel Mohnot (@pitdesi) on October 4, 2021.

The show commenced as planned, with drones lighting up and gradually taking off. The 200 computer-controlled drones ascended to approximately 50ft and began their formations. However, in just a few minutes, something went wrong and the drones began falling directly above the 5,000 spectators. Some landed over parked cars but luckily no one was injured.

The event organizers blamed a rival company for sabotaging the show through an interference signal. However, a spokesperson clarified that the mishap was probably due to operation errors.

Drone Show Failure in Shanghai

A drone show that took place in Shanghai on 14th June 2021, did not go as planned. Nearly 1000 drones flew over the Huangpu River on the night of the Dragon Boat Festival. The drones began their formations until dozens of drones fiercely crashed into the river. Some of the falling drones crashed on yachts and cruise ships in the river. However, nobody was hurt and the remaining drones continued the show.

The reason for the crash has not been identified. The companies involved with the show passed the blame around and denied involvement. There was speculation about why only a small group of drones crashed. Some claimed it was due to GPS interference, while others called it an RTK malfunction. Either way, the drone crash was captured by a bystander. You can view the video here.

Taiwan Drone Crash

A similar drone show crash took place in Taiwan’s capital Taipei in February 2020 during the Taiwan Lantern Festival. Around 48 drones fell from the sky soon after take-off due to electromagnetic interference. The falling drones did not cause any injury as reported by local media. The show consisted of 800 drones in total.

The drone show at Taipei
The drone show at Taipei | Source: Taipei Times

The team tried to resolve the interference issue before the show began. The issue persisted nevertheless. “However, we found that the interference continued after the show began, which caused some of the drones to fall from the sky soon after takeoff,” director Liao Wei-Chih stated. The estimated damage from the drone crash was nearly $98,674.

Why Do Drone Light Shows Crash?

This is a rare occurrence but it can happen. As of now, such incidents have only been reported in China and Taiwan. Moreover, these drone shows took place in a highly urban setting. Therefore, chances of signal interference from nearby flying drones or network towers could have played a part.

Malicious intent is another possibility that cannot be ruled out. There have been reports of the possibility of notorious GPS jamming signals. These signals are hard to trace and often wreck the show. Even lasers can crash drones mid-air. In 2019, Chilean protestors took down a surveillance drone by pointing dozens of lasers at it.

Another reason for crashes could be the trajectory change due to weather. Strong winds may disorient the drones and thus, lead to them crashing. However, these shows are conducted in a controlled manner with little chance of failure. Months of preparation and flight planning are required to pull off a 1000+ drone light show. If you’re curious about how drone light shows work, check out this article.