January 27, 2022 | By Joyce DiMascio | Image: Anthony Bastic

Major public events and festivals are often a source of inspiration for event organisers in the business events sector. And while January 2022 has had some major constraints due to the latest outbreak of the coronavirus fuelled by the Omicron variant, it did produce some standout occasions from which inspiration will be drawn.

One of the those was ELEVATE Sydney, a new festival which ran for five days at the start of January. It was designed to lift the spirit of Sydneysiders and visitors after two years of the pandemic.

And its location high up on the the Cahill Expressway, facing Sydney Harbour at Circular Quay, provided an innovative stage for all kinds of entertainment

Created and delivered for the NSW Government by AGB Events, ELEVATE Sydney featured daytime and evening entertainment as well as a nightly drone show over Sydney Harbour.

The spectacular light show, called The Sky Show, delivered by a fleet of drones on an unprecedented scale captured the imagination of the city. The drones, choreographed to music, formed beautiful and symbolic shapes that filled the sky.

CEO and Creative Director of AGB Events, Anthony Bastic said he believed the drone display will be picked up as a feature of corporate events especially large-scale incentives, major corporate launches and welcome and farewell events.

AGB Events had to navigate a complex approvals process in order to deliver the “many firsts” of the event. This included the large number of drones operating in airspace around Sydney Harbour, which required close collaboration with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

The Sky Show at ELEVATE Sydney | Credit: Destination NSW

Bastic put the creative concept for Elevate Sydney to Destination NSW and he credits the strong backing of CEO Steve Cox and senior representatives of the agency like Sandra Bender and Julie Turpie for ensuring its success.

“From the first meetings we had their strong backing and felt assured that we were going to be able to bring the vision to reality for all parts of the festival, and especially the Sky Show,” he said.

“Everyone wanted this to happen.”

Although it is has been used a New Year’s Eve event location in the past, it was the first time that the Cahill Expressway which overlooks the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge had been transformed into a stage for a festival.

The technical delivery of the drone show was organised in partnership with Mirragin Consulting based on the Gold Coast in Queensland. 

Head of Flight Operations and Senior Consultant, Sue Osborn told micenet that AGB Events are the leaders in production and storytelling drone light shows. She was honoured that Mirragin was brought in to deliver the drones for AGB Events.

“Together our two organisations are a one-stop shop for everything an organisation needs to start planning a drone light show.”

Mirragin Consulting Head of Flight Operations and Senior Consultant, Sue Osborn, far left, with the female crew of the drone show

So how does it all work? Osborn says the drones are operated by two crew and pre-programmed to fly a set flight path that’s been uploaded to their systems prior to take off.

“Each drone knows where it’s going and what its role is in relation to the animation prior to take-off. It’s really quite smart and robust system or telling a story through the animation.”

“We achieved a 500-drone light show, in Sydney Harbour, orchestrated to an amazing visual and audio story through the world-leading Intel Drone Light Show, but it took a lot of hours to make sure the safety case was robust.”

“We needed to be sure that this event was successful in every aspect from obtaining approvals from landowners, coordination with Sydney Ferries, shutting down the Cahill Expressway and then obtaining CASA approval to fly 500 drones, at night, in a restricted flight area.

“Then each night we had a critical timeline to follow to make sure the show went according to plan and down to the seconds.”

The Sydney events were led by an all-female crew.

“We hadn’t planned to make this an all-female led coordination,” said Osborn, adding it showed the strength of female talent available in the drone space.

Osborn started out in the Unmanned AereaI Systems (UAS) Industry in 2009 when there was only one other female soldier and a couple of female officers in her Army UAS Unit.

Bastic says that his company aims to deliver firsts and that he is was very pleased with the outcome of Elevate Sydney.

He said what the event was able to achieve paves the way for companies to adopt the technology across corporate events.