British aerobatic team Aerosparx staged a first-of-its-kind air display at the Dubai World Cup 2023, including two Grob 109 motorgliders, 2,000 drones, fireworks, lights and multimedia displays.
The show is believed to be the first time that manned aircraft have ever performed a coordinated display with a drone swarm, all taking place within the same piece of airspace. It is the result of a multi-year process that saw Aerosparx train to fly with small numbers of manually-controlled drones in 2015 and fly alongside ground launched fireworks since 2021, honing the techniques and procedures required to fly with a large pre-programmed drone swarm. The team also conducted two week-long training camps in Dubai, one in 2021 and another in the days leading up to the Dubai World Cup 2023, during which they met with key stakeholders and experts, designed their display routine and practiced flying over the Meydan racecourse.
The ten minute spectacle was made possible thanks to new technology unique to drone swarm provider Dronisos, allowing them to track the position of every single drone in the display and automatically land any drone that deviates from its planned flight path by more than a 1.5m. This meant Aerosparx’s two Grob 109b motorgliders could come to within 20m of the drone swarm during the display without compromising safety. Dronisos also added light flashes and other visual cues to the show, giving the pilots advance warning that the drone formation was about to change shape.
The display, which was masterminded by Australian events company Artists in Motion, was designed with the aid of detailed 3D models, allowing Aerosparx’s pilots, Guy Westgate and Rob Barsby, to virtually experience what it would look like to fly around the drone swarm at different heights and distances days before it was time to fly with the drones for real.
It is hoped that the display in Dubai has laid the groundwork for more combined drone, aircraft and firework shows at major events in the future.
This is Flight was delighted to be invited to Dubai to document the display; you can view our video of the show above.