Dragonboat Drone Show

Dragons and Boats Appear Above Vancouver In City’s First Public Drone Show

Vancouver just had its first ever public drone show, part of the Dragonboat Festival in False Creek. I was intrigued – I’ve never seen a live drone show – and this was a short walk from my house. So like many Vancouverites I stepped into the warm midsummer night on Saturday to enjoy the show with my 10 year-old.

The display was scheduled at dusk, around 9.30pm, following on from a live music act down at Creekside Park, the patch of green on the North side of the golf-ball-shaped Science World.

It started a little later, presumably for the skies to darken. Crowds thickened on both sides of the False Creek, and then coming out of the corner of our field of view to the south of Science World, an armada of lights buzzed into view.

It was reminiscent of a sci-fi movie scene the way the drones moved in unison as a regimented pack above us. From where we were standing near Creekside Community Centre, the buzzing noise of the drone propellers was, surprisingly, barely audible. The drones themselves were also barely visible, only appearing to the naked eye as a single coloured dot in the sky.

The production company that produced the Dragonboat drone show is called Pixel Sky Animations, and now it was clear why.

Each drone is like a dot moving around in the sky, changing colour, going dark and then turning on in a new location, along with 200 (reportedly, I didn’t count) drones to create images and text in the sky.

Having appeared like a unified force, the drones scattered and created star bursts, disappeared and reformed in new images that slowly animated then faded away to form something else.

My son particularly liked an image of a dragon’s head breathing fire and two dragonboats racing to the finish line. He thought that the short show was impressive, but would have benefited from more images and less text (though the show sponsor might have thoughts about being left out). I think I’d agree, especially since from our position the text was inverted. The words and numbers were directed to the crowd in the Dragonboat Festival arena at Creekside Park.

A dragon and a dragonboat appears in the night sky above Science World at the Dragonboat Festival Drone Show

I also was impressed by the cityscape image of Vancouver which appeared to show a small boat (aquabus?) floating across a familiar landscape of highrises and the Harbour Centre.

The crowd oohed and aahed. There was clear artistry involved in conjuring animated 3D effects from dotted images, be it a twisted helix or layers of the city.

One of the big selling points of drone shows is that unlike massive fireworks displays (for example, Vancouver’s hugely popular Celebration of Light), drones are quiet and almost calming to watch, while providing awe-inspiring, crowd-pleasing spectacle.

The Dragonboat Festival drone show was definitely impressive and gave people an inkling of what might be possible with a bigger creative budget.

The Celebration of Light, incidentally, takes place on the 20th, 24th, 27th July 2024.