Drones were a big part of this year’s Super Bowl halftime show for the first time ever. Hundreds of the devices helped this year’s performer, Lady Gaga, kick her show off, presenting a colorful, swirling backdrop as she stood on the roof of Houston’s NRG Stadium. But as Gaga herself seemed to leap from the roof, dropping down to the stadium to start her show proper, her army of drones didn’t follow.
That’s because the drone shows were actually filmed earlier this week, as Intel confirmed to The Verge. That includes Gaga’s intro sequence, which saw her dancing in front of an American flag, and a later 10-second spot that featured the drones as they changed from the Pepsi to Intel logos. Restrictions placed on the area by the Federal Aviation Administration forbid drones from flying within a 34.5-mile radius of the NRG Stadium, in addition to other rules that bar drones from hovering too high, or from doing acrobatic maneuvers directly above hundreds of thousands of people.
Those rules would normally preclude a potentially dangerous drone show from taking place on the roof of a multi-billion-dollar building, but this is the Super Bowl, and the FAA was apparently willing to grant special dispensation for Lady Gaga. From there, it was up to the performer and Intel — who supplied 300 of its Shooting Star drones — to work out how to choreograph the show.
A behind-the-scenes video posted in November shows off the drones that Intel provided for the performance:
Intel first showed off its Shooting Star drones last year, revealing quadcopter devices about a foot or so long, and outfitted with LED lights that can shine in one of 4 billion colors. Each drone weighs about 28 grams, and can fly for up to 20 minutes. Unlike regular drones, Shooting Star swarms can be controlled by a single operator, making complicated aerial moves much easier than they would otherwise be for multiple pilots.
The company used 500 Shooting Stars to break the world record for the most drones operating by a single user last year, and has held synchronized shows at Disney World over the past few months, but Lady Gaga’s performance marked the first time that they have been used in a televised event.