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Drones light up AOPA Fly-InDrones light up AOPA Fly-In

Drones lit the night sky over Tullahoma, Tennessee, on Sept. 13, delivering on a promise to celebrate AOPA’s eightieth anniversary with a custom show.

The third and final AOPA Fly-In of 2019 proved to be the charm: Bad weather in Frederick, Maryland, had grounded the Great Lakes Drone Company fleet of LED-toting unmanned aircraft. Trouble with the custom software forced a fleetwide overhaul that nixed the show at the second AOPA Fly-In, held in Livermore, California, in June.

But the persistence of the Great Lakes Drone Company team paid off in Tullahoma, where more than 60 drones (a somewhat smaller fleet than planned) flew in digitally choreographed formations set to music, creating airplanes and other shapes with points of light in the night sky. There were still a couple of technical glitches, a handful of drones that didn’t make the flight, and two that collided in midair. (AOPA Senior Director of UAS Programs Kat Swain noted that such is to be expected with any technology that’s so new.)

The crowd clearly enjoyed the show, notwithstanding a missing light or two in some of the shapes. They had a chance to see the power of the emerging technology to entertain, just one of the hundreds of missions that drones are accomplishing or poised to achieve as integration proceeds in the years to come.

A Beech 18 frames a performance by the Great Lakes Drone Company featuring the colorful likeness of an aircraft in flight during AOPA's Tullahoma Fly-In. Photo by David Tulis.
Topics: Unmanned Aircraft, AOPA Events

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