What Disney’s Drone Patents Could Mean for its Parks

by  Christine Dayao | Sep 19, 2014
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom / Photo courtesy of Christine Dayao

It looks like our fascination with drones is here to stay. We've already talked about ways to armchair travel with drones, and a new sharing platform called Dronestagram has since joined the scene. But what's really caught our attention today is the recent drone-related patent application that the Walt Disney Company has filed.

In the application, Disney lays out hopes to use the drones for aerial display systems, floating projection screens, and oversized marionettes or puppets. Multiple drones could be used to animate these characters by moving their limbs on some characters -- and the mechanisms would be controlled from the ground and monitored to prevent collisions. Unfortunately, technology aside, there's a legal barrier for making all that happen: This type of drone use is currently prohibited by the FAA, who doesn't allow the technology to be used for commercial purposes.

Still, for the kids at heart among us, we’re holding out hope that we could one day see some beloved characters fly just as they did in books and films. And if Disney were to somehow implement the drone technology into its parks’ entertainment offerings, it wouldn’t actually be the first time it created something to fly over a park -- to commemorate the opening of New Fantasyland in 2012, they flew a large mechanical dragon over the Magic Kingdom.

In the meantime, here are some more characters in addition to Dumbo that we’d like to see take flight:

  • Peter Pan
  • Tinker Bell
  • Aladdin and Jasmine on the Magic Carpet
  • Buzz Lightyear
  • Dusty Crophopper from Planes

Update January 2016: Disney has filed for an exception to FAA rules so that it can use drones for entertainment purposes, the Orlando Sentinel reports. In the filing, the company would fly its devices mostly over water areas and restricted zones at a maximum of 150 feet above ground level during certain productions, including fireworks shows.

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