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From a field of drones

Tokatee's aerial celebration wowed the crowd

RAINBOW: Animated patriotic icons - ranging from the Statue of Liberty to the American flag - were joined by Tokatee’s own logo in brightening the night sky last Saturday. The images were part of a 13-minute light show that drew plenty of shouts and applause when it capped off the golf club’s 57th July Celebration.

Throughout last Saturday the steady flow of events included a 4-man scramble golf tournament, food trucks, live music, and an outdoor beer garden. As twilight drew closer, even more families arrived, stretching the line of parked cars far down both sides of the entry drive’s shoulders.

Behind the scenes, Jesse Stone and his crew from Utah-based Open Sky Drone Light Shows were busy preparing the finale. This year they brought a show that eased the wildfire concerns that had caused the cancellation of Tokatee’s popular fireworks display in 2021.

“Now’s the time to do some safe, sustainable events,” according to Stone. “The West is a great spot for drone shows because we have so much fuel in the mountains and so many droughts all over.”

To match the visual impact of a bursting sky-rocket, Open Sky employed 140 carbon fiber drones in their show. Each 10-ounce aircraft held a 3,000-lumen light capable of emitting up to 2,000+ different colors while maintaining a 1.5-strict meter spacing between each other. That spacing wasn’t only a requirement for creating visually appealing displays but was also part of the requirements that must be met to gain Federal Aviation Administration approval before putting on a public display. Should one vary from the pattern - due to strong gusts or a mechanical issue - that drone was programmed to immediately land.

Stone said the LED technology used to create that night’s dazzling arrays of colors and patterns was all controlled by a pre-programmed computer set up near the launch site. From there they rose high above the tallest nearby trees to create a 2-dimensional palette that was stacked vertically and looked “basically like a 200 to 300-foot flat-screen TV.”

That it did. Despite several calls from youngsters who wanted to see “Captain America,” (thwarted by copyright constraints) the images were bright and clear. Plus the programed animations were linked to choreographed theme music piped from the clubhouse’s speakers as the images morphed from ships to stars or a flying rocket - all against the background of a rising full moon.


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