In September of 2021, Celestial began the exciting adventure of opening an Australian office, making Celestial the first permanent drone display company on the continent. An extended lockdown, coupled with the problem of bush fires (fireworks cause fires), the appetite for drone art in Australia was very high.
Shortly after embarking on our Australian adventure we were thrilled to learn that we had won Paul New’s successful pitch to put on the prestigious 2022 Melbourne NYE Celebrations. And so, as Melbourne emerged from the longest lockdown in the world, Celestial marked this special moment with a display that aims to reflect on a difficult year and rouse a definitive sense of hope for the future.
The first ever Celestial Australia drone show harnesses an array of talent, including First Nation artwork and award-winning poetry. The end result is an enthralling feast for the senses. A story that marries the epic scale of drone art with captivating music and spoken word.
Working closely with the City of Melbourne, ‘Melbourne: Feel the Sound’ was the beautiful poem we commissioned from Ren Alessandra, 2021 Australian poetry slam winner. The poem created the foundation of the narrative onto which we built our visuals. With the help of First Nation artist Mandy Nicholson, who designed some extraordinary concept artwork, the drone display draws inspiration from Melbourne’s heritage. Both modern and indigenous.
Celestial’s expanding animation team got to work designing a beautiful drone show that captures the essence of Melbourne, a proud city. Meanwhile, acclaimed film composers Jeremy Lane and Andrew Lancaster designed a sumptuous score, underlying the emotional journey of the drone display.
A typical drone show comes with many challenges. Trying to set up an office AND deliver a major show remotely, due to Covid, compounds problems exponentially. Logistics, permissions, accreditations, training remote crews to name but a few. Jake Andrews, Head of Operations in Australia and David Hobby, Senior Pilot, were vital in coordinating boots on the ground and organizing compliance with CASA.
The amazing Celestial Australia division spent weeks in remote training sessions, familiarizing themselves with the many technical processes needed to fly drones. Working closely with the new team in Australia, Celestial’s Head of Ops Ben Pickering and producer Ceri Wade used every ounce of their events knowledge to push this challenging show along.
Tony Martin and Ant Burry landed in Melbourne a few weeks early to finalise training. Then the dreaded Covid struck after many brutal, test nights in the UK and Australia, delivered by our intrepid and dedicated ground crews.
Extended Covid-related delays in battery shipments meant that the Australian team could not fly as many crucial test flights to get them show-ready in time, leaving the council no other option but to postpone. And so, with a heavy heart, we had to watch Melbourne NYE Celebrations go by without the beautiful show we had spent so many months designing. Absolutely gutting.
However, with the arrival of the batteries over New Year, the team was back on track and trained, ready to deliver our show-stopping residency from mid January. And what a show it was.
Poetry and NarrationRen Alessandra, 2020 Australian Poetry Slam Champion
MusicJerry Lane and Andrew Lancaster, award-winning film composers
Concept Art and IllustrationMandy Nicholson
Huge gratitude goes to Melbourne for commissioning and supporting us on this incredible project against all odds.
Final thoughts and thanks
At Celestial, we’re extremely excited to kickstart our new venture in Australia with such a significant and groundbreaking show as part of the Melbourne NYE celebrations. With it, we hope to set the tone for a positive 2022 and inspire audiences, many of whom are attending their first-ever live drone show experience.
This was far from easy. What an immense team effort with tonnes of learnings. We couldn’t have achieved any of this without the continued dedication of the Celestial crews (both in the UK and Aus), our talented collaborators and, of course, the city of Melbourne. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone involved. Celestial’s team went above and beyond the call of duty to deliver this spectacle.
On a final note – as well as setting a positive tone for the new year for the people of Melbourne, this drone light show highlights another pivotal shift in how global cities can plan and celebrate their biggest annual event – by using drones, an environmentally friendly alternative to fireworks.
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!