CSU Drone Center lights up night sky with something fishy

Trout drone

Something fishy happened at Colorado State University’s Christman Airfield recently.

In the night sky, a troupe of colorful small drones danced above a mesmerized audience at the 4,000-foot airstrip. The drones hovered and glowed in careful choreography, possibly mistaken for seasonal fireworks.

CSU grad Mark Bellncula created the aerial artistry. He provided drone pilots coordinates for the machines, snapped photos, then moved them into different areas of the night sky, snapping more photos. Meshed together in time-lapse photography, the lights appear as a giant trout swimming in the night sky.

“The art I’m making isn’t the photograph itself, it’s an actual sculpture in space and time,” Bellncula said.

“He used the autonomous nature of the drones to create the trout,” said Drone Center Director Christopher Robertson. “Every single place the drones went was pre-programmed in a waypoint mission for a point in real time and space, at certain speeds.”

Four drones, equipped with 3,000-lumen lights, flew autonomously; the time-lapse camera caught the images that appear as a flying trout when played in a loop.

The Drone Center provides services for scientists, search and rescue and government agencies. The machines assist with agricultural research, pollution monitoring and support for advanced phone and internet networks, amongst other things. The center is part of the Walter Scott Jr. College of Engineering and is supported in part by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

The Drone Center is even planning a public Colorado Drone Airshow at the airstrip in 2023, proving that the sky is the limit for research and creative applications of drone technology.