What Is a Drone Show and How Does It Work?

11th November, 2022

As one of the most exhilarating, prominent digital art forms showcasing pre-programmed patterns, drone shows occupy the dark sky, captivating audiences worldwide.

Drone shows have the ability to take storytelling to a magnified level that has never been achieved before through the use of these new technologies.

But piecing together these jaw-dropping drone shows can be challenging. Before a drone fleet is capable of taking off, extensive planning, synchronisation, and testing are crucial.

Innovating drone displays that push the limits of our business is nothing new for Celestial, and our desire is to awe audiences with our blood, sweat and tears. As a result, we’ve developed a strategy that assures that we can deliver on short notice while continuously evaluating the potential of drone technology.

So, What is a Drone Show?

It’s a drone art performance in which hundreds of illuminated drones are flown in formation to produce visuals and patterns in the sky.

These drones may create any design as long as it has been pre-programmed using the appropriate software.

It would be chaotic and hard to control each drone with hundreds or thousands of pilots. But only 1 or 2 drone pilots are required thanks to our programming, AI, and 3D modelling, which ensures perfect coordination.

This is a unique and creative way to experience art, and it’s a fantastic substitute for conventional fireworks shows.

How Does a Drone Show Work?

The success of a drone light show depends on several variables. It includes the drone’s design and the algorithms that direct them along their precisely determined flight patterns.

The drone show’s longest stage is the mission planning phase.

Choreographing the motion of hundreds of drones might take anywhere from a couple of weeks to months.
Exclusive algorithms and 3D animation tools are used during mission planning. Flight planning teams can design the ideal paths for each drone using specially developed algorithms. Then, smooth out and establish the most appropriate flight routes. This often happens through an iterative process.

Our clients may see what the show will look like from various perspectives thanks to our patented software, which enables the virtual display to be viewed from multiple angles.

Then, before the programme is formally locked in and we begin production, they get one more opportunity to provide comments.

After the approval, we travel to our headquarters, where we take the animation, fly it, inspect it, and perform simulations before flying it.

Our virtual collision avoidance simulations are one of the most critical testing features. This is a crucial step in the process because our 300 drones incur significant expense and risk with each flight.

We determine whether a collision will occur by virtually flying the show if a collision occurs while testing, we return to the animation and make adjustments.

You can read what goes behind the making of a drone art show here.

How Much Does A Drone Show Cost?

The price of a drone show can vary from $150,000 to over $1,000,000 depending on the number of drones being implemented and how complex the performance is.

Depending on your budget, the audience size, the location available to perform the show, and the choreography, the number of drones required for an artistic display might range from 10 to hundreds or thousands.

How Many Drones Do You Need For a Drone Show?

When planning a drone show, one of the most common questions is how many drones are needed. Generally, a minimum of 100 to 150 drones is required to create an impactful display.

However, the number of drones needed ultimately depends on the complexity of the content. For instance, a show featuring complex shapes and long words will require more drones than a show with simple shapes and short words.

At Celestial, we typically use an average of 300 to 500 drones for our shows. This number allows us to create intricate and visually stunning displays, but we are capable of using over 500 drones for more complex designs.

When creating drone shows for artivism, the number of drones is also determined by the desired impact and message.

The right number of drones and the proper content can produce a show that can deliver a powerful message that resonates with the audience.

What Type of Drone Shows Can You Have?

The world of drone shows is vast and varied, with endless possibilities for creating stunning aerial displays.

Using computer software, any image can be virtually reproduced in the sky by converting pictures into flying orders and transmitting them to drones.

This means that the potential for creativity is unlimited, from displaying a company logo to a rotating earth globe in the sky.

At Celestial, we have had the pleasure of creating some truly breathtaking drone shows. One of our most memorable projects was the celebration of Manchester City FC winning the Premier League, where we used 300 drones to light up the sky in honour of their victory.

Another project that we are extremely proud of is the Melbourne New Year 2022 drone show. The display was created to commemorate Melbourne’s escape from the world’s longest lockdown and to inspire unwavering optimism for the future. This incredible display featured a variety of talents, including First Nations art and prize-winning poetry, making it the first-ever Celestial Australia drone show.

In addition to creating stunning displays for product launch events and public celebrations, drone technology has also become a powerful tool for artivism. This innovative approach to activism through art has the potential to drive significant social and political change by using drones to create compelling and thought-provoking visual displays.

One example of drone artivism is the SKY SONG drone show that debuted at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. This feature-length show used drones to take audiences on a cosmic journey through First Nation history, culture, and art. The show aimed to highlight the horrors of colonisation and the stolen generations while inspiring a sense of belonging and connection to the country.

Drones can be used to project powerful messages, promote important causes, and even create public art installations.

As you can see, the possibilities for drone shows are endless, and with a bit of creativity and innovation, the sky truly is the limit.

You can discover the various types of breathtaking drone shows we offer here.

We also have more exciting and innovative projects on our website to watch.

Will Drone Displays Replace Fireworks?

Drone displays have the potential to replace traditional fireworks sooner than one might expect.

Not only do they offer significant environmental advantages, but drones also surpass the creative limitations of fireworks in numerous ways.

Equipped with LED lights, drones can produce breathtaking displays in the sky while generating much less disruption to wildlife and pets due to their quieter sound output.

Furthermore, drones can be precisely programmed to perform synchronised movements, providing a controlled and safer experience compared to fireworks.

One notable distinction is that drone shows are not noisy like fireworks, as drones are reusable and do not contribute to air and noise pollution.

In contrast, drones produce no chemical emissions and significantly reduce noise pollution, minimising their impact on the environment and local ecosystems. This eco-friendly aspect makes drone displays an attractive choice for environmentally-conscious event organisers and spectators alike.

As a result, the rise of drone light displays opens up a new era of visually stunning, eco-friendly, and peaceful aerial spectacles.


The sky’s the limit when it comes to drone storytelling, and Celestial is at the forefront of challenging the boundaries with ever-ambitious drone art exhibitions.

With each and every one of our projects, we hope to rekindle amazement in viewers, rekindle their connection to the night sky’s stars, and bring people together.

Learn more about Celestial drone shows, check out our FAQs here.

Please get in touch if you’d like to learn more about how our drone art shows work or would like to work with us.