Disney files patents for drone-driven puppets

28 August 2014

Disney plans to explore the possibility of drones spicing up events at the company's chain of theme parks with flying screens and ''blimp-sized'' puppets suspended and animated by drones, according to patent filings from last week, The Washington Post reported.

However, the patent application would not mean the drone-driven devices  would be actually used in Disney parks or other venues anytime soon. Patented technologies often do not come to be actually used because the technology turns out to be too complicated or costly to execute.

The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of drawing up rules for commercial drone use. While all the patent filings do refer to safety features, many applications in typical settings with huge gatherings would naturally raised concerns of regulators.

The patents seem to relate to entertainment displays at Disney's theme parks, necessitating what according to the company was a ''plurality'' of drones for ''presenting an aerial display over an audience of spectators'', International Business Times reported.

These include such wonders like flying projection screens and a synchronised display with floating pixels, or ''flixels'' and one patent envisions a giant Disney-style marionette controlled by flying robots, developed by three inventors - Clifford Wong, James Alexander Stark and Robert Scott Trowbridge. The drones would use pre-programmed flight plans to control their positions within the display air space.

All three patents were first reported by Stitch Kingdom, a blog that covering the world of Disney. It remains unclear, whether the inventions would pass muster with the Federal Aviation Administration's drone guidelines, which are rapidly evolving with new drone technologies being developed and new uses for drones envisioned.

As competition from Universal Studios increases, Disney is investing heavily in new technologies for its theme parks units, whose revenue has been on an upswing this year due to higher ticket prices and per-guest spending. Earlier this year, Disney launched its MyMagic+ attendance-management system, with RFID-enabled bracelets for tracking guests as they moved about the park. The system had thus far been popular with visitors amid vocal criticism from privacy advocates.

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