News Column

Disney files patent applications to use drones in its theme parks

August 25, 2014

By Steven Ford, Orlando Sentinel



Aug. 25--Has Disney decided to go all in with the U.S. military's anti-terrorism efforts? After all, why else would the company file patents to use drones?

A closer look at Disney's UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] patent applications reveals language about the company's plans for "entertainment" and "projections screens" at its theme parks, but surely that is just subterfuge in these dangerous times. Loose lips can sink steamboats, right Willie?

At any rate and according to a report that first surfaced last week on the Wall Street Journal'sMarketWatch blog, Disney has filed a trio of applications involving drones.

One of the applications is for a multi-drone system that would hold aloft a projection screen for a nighttime display. Such a display would utilize what Disney calls "flixels," which is an Imagineer word creation for "floating pixels," according to the background information Disney submitted.

In the second patent application, Disney said "the UAVs execute the flight plans to move and to position the flexible projection screens within the display air space," according to the patent application abstract. These multiple flexible projection screens, Disney says, would have little wind resistance and offer a surface for reflecting light.

With both of these patents, the systems could be used for the drones to carry either screens for displays or lights overhead. Both would be lightweight and flexible enough to move easily and be controlled from the ground. Of course, both easily could be seen as creating a high-tech digital fireworks show overhead that would be safer and more controlled -- and which would cost less than the nightly pyrotechnics that go off at the parks now, as well.

The third patent application is as bizarre-sounding as it is futurist in concept. It would use multiple drones attached to balloons or super-large puppets to make them move -- and in the case of the puppets, seemingly walk -- as the drones control the movements of the characters' limbs.

Maybe the patents are for peaceful purposes in the theme parks, odd as they might sound and knowing what we do about how drones are often used by U.S. forces overseas. Still, we know that it is possible that Disney could be drawing up plans for an air offense against its enemies. After all, its land forces were announced online yesterday. And the princesses, clearly, are ready for battle.

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(c)2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)


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