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Drone startup plans to turn sky into advertising space by creating ‘largest screen on the planet’

Drones equipped with LEDs are increasingly projecting adverts on the night sky over the US (Pixis drones)
Drones equipped with LEDs are increasingly projecting adverts on the night sky over the US (Pixis drones)

Hundreds of synchronised drones equipped with powerful LEDs will fly over New York City on Thurdsay evening as part of a startup’s latest effort to transform the sky into advertising space.

The aerial spectacle will see 500 drones perform a choreographed routine over Lower Manhattan for the mobile game Candy Crush.

Drone events firm Pixis has already performed a number of campaigns throughout the US, including for Raid bug spray, the NBA and a chain of casinos. Other clients include Nike, Volkswagen and management consulting company Deloitte.

A press release for the Candy Crush campaign said the drone show would take place on Friday if there was bad weather on Thursday.

“Downtown Manhattan will be transformed into a candified carnival where viewers can enjoy this surreal takeover of the New York City Skyline,” it stated.

Candy Crush’s chief marketing officer said the technology allowed companies to “turn the sky into the largest screen on the planet”, however it has faced criticism from local lawmakers.

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman described the stunt as “outrageous” and said it “spoiled the city’s skyline” for private profit.

“It’s offensive to New Yorkers, to our local laws, to public safety, and to wildlife,” he told Gothamist.

Flying drones over any of New York’s five boroughs is illegal, however Pixis was able to overcome this by seeking a special use permit from neighbouring New Jersey and a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration in order to fly the ad just on the edge of New York City’s airspace.

Beyond the US, drone shows have become increasingly popular in China in recent years, with some firms sending up thousands of devices to perform intricate spectacles for special events like Chinese New Year.