Nobody at the Super Bowl actually saw Lady Gaga's drones

The beginning of the pop star's halftime show using Intel Shooting Star drones was pretaped because of FAA regulations and weather concerns.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
2 min read

Intel drones lit up the Houston sky in an American flag formation during the Super Bowl halftime show.


Lady Gaga's Super Bowl halftime show featured something never done before: 300 synchronized drones that danced and created the outline of an American flag. The only problem is, anyone shelling out thousands of dollars for their Super Bowl ticket didn't actually see the drone show.

That's because Intel's Shooting Star drones and Gaga's terrifying leap from the roof of Houston's NRG Stadium were taped earlier in the week. Federal Aviation Association regulations about drones -- and a ban of drones within 34.5 miles of the stadium on game day -- meant Intel and Gaga had to film the halftime show's opening sequence early. Intel said other factors that played into the decision to pretape the opening scene were possible weather challenges and the fact the stadium is a dome.

Drones, which are typically camera-equipped quadcopters, have become a new consumer and business phenomenon for those interested in remote-controlled vehicles, aerial photography and even aerial racing. As the aircraft have grown in popularity over the past several years, though, drones have become a concern for the government agency responsible for regulating the nation's airspace. The FAA estimates that by 2020, there will be 4.3 million hobbyist drones sold, up from about 1.9 million sold in 2016.

Intel said the Super Bowl show was the highest a Shooting Star drone has flown. It received a special waiver from the FAA to fly the fleet up to 700 feet in the air. Intel also received an additional special waiver to fly the drones in the more restricted Class B airspace.

"Lady Gaga and the Super Bowl creative team wanted to pull off something that had never been done before, and we were able to combine Intel drone innovation with her artistry to pull off a truly unique experience," Josh Walden, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's new technology group, said Sunday in a press release.

Intel designed the Shooting Star drones for festivals and entertainment events. The quadcopters are equipped with LED lights that can create over 4 billion color combinations and can easily be programmed for any animation. Each weighs only 280 grams, less than the weight of a volleyball, and can fly for up to 20 minutes.

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