Disney seeks drone-related air show patents

The entrance gate to The Walt Disney Co is pictured in Burbank, California February 5, 2014.REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

By Barbara Liston ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co has filed for three drone-related patents that it says could lead to an era of aerial movie screens and larger-than-life puppets flying through the sky. The company's Disney Enterprises Inc subsidiary suggests its proposed drone-powered air shows could serve as an alternative to spectacles such as fireworks and large-scale light shows, according to its patent applications. In filing for the patents, Disney joins a list of companies pressing for the U.S. government to allow commercial use of small unmanned flight systems long associated with military and government surveillance. The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of drafting rules for the commercial use of drones for everything from TV news coverage to package delivery to crop monitoring. Disney Enterprises Inc published the three patent applications Aug. 21 for what it called aerial display systems with floating pixels, floating projection screens and marionettes held aloft and animated by drones. The drones would be pre-programmed and controlled from the ground and would monitor each other to remain synchronized and prevent aerial collisions in the event of wind gusts, the company said. In the case of marionettes, a drone could carry a blimp-sized character through the sky to simulate flight depicted in passages from books and films, according to the patent application. Other marionettes could be animated by a flock of drones manipulating different limbs. “This is a significant improvement over prior flying characters, which typically were provided in the form of parade or other blimps/balloons filled with hot air or other gases and that had little and/or awkward articulation of any movable parts,” the company said in its patent application. The inventors for all three patents were listed as Clifford Wong of Burbank, Ca., James Alexander Stark of South Pasadena, Ca., and Robert Scott Trowbridge of La Canada, Ca. The company did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. (Reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky, Victoria Cavaliere and Grant McCool)

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