Intel Beautifully Lit Up the Desert Sky With the First FAA-Approved Drone Swarm

Palm Springs stunt offers a glimpse of what's to come

To celebrate the FAA's loosening of restrictions on who can pilot commercial drones, Intel has put on a flying robot light show—and the results are pretty.

In a new clip, 100 drones, manned by a single operator (and his walkie-talkie-sporting support team), dance across the night sky, changing color in concert and flowing between choreographed formations, like some kind of sci-fi psychedelic Esther Williams wet dream.

Intel staged and filmed the event—the first such swarm with explicit FAA approval—in the Palm Springs desert. A small audience was on hand to witness it live, but the marketer hopes to bring similar shows to much larger audiences—crowds in stadiums, for example—in the future.

The landscape is, naturally, stunning, and the iridescent beacons are intriguing to watch, even if they're slower moving and less dramatic than an amped up gearhead might wish. But it's easy to imagine how the same basic approach, given time, could yield faster-paced, more dazzling results.

Though for accidental, uninformed witnesses, such eye candy might also conjure fears of an alien invasion. But once the FAA's rules go into effect, anyone who passes an aeronautical knowledge test every two years will be able fly a drone—and everyone everywhere will get used to seeing bright flashes zipping around overhead.