Houston, Texas – One of the most prestigious higher-learning institutions in the United States, Rice University, holds an enviable position in the field of education, with colleges renowned in engineering, architecture, music and more. This year, to mark the inauguration of its eighth president, Dr. Reginald DesRoches, the University called on the high technology of drone show specialist Verge Aero to ensure the celebration was an event to remember.
Alumni of Rice University include dozens of successful academic and professional figures, many Marshall Scholars and Rhodes Scholars among them. There are many literal high-flyers, from legendary film producer and aviator Howard Hughes to – thanks to the University’s links with NASA – space scientists and astronauts. So it was fitting that its choice of entertainment for this special event should draw on the very latest in automated aviation technology.
Verge Aero’s team, including Director of Show Operations Mason Hayes and Project Manager Chris Lutts, worked closely with Rice University’s representatives, including Associate Vice President for Facilities Engineering & Planning, Kathleen K. Jones, AIA, and Project Manager Matt Hester. Together, the team created a beautifully crafted, 10-minute aerial performance in the night sky, celebrating the University’s many achievements. The show flew three times in total – all without a hitch – over the course of Rice University’s Presidential Inauguration weekend.
The open area behind Lovett Hall was chosen as the launch zone for the 400 drones, and from here the Verge Aero team flew the pre-programmed, three-dimensional light shows celebrating Rice University’s 110 years of history, over 4000 enrolled students, and visiting alumni from around the globe. With their 10cm-precision GPS positioning, wind resistance, and powerful, colour-changing LED emitters, each drone becomes an autonomous performer in an ever-changing choreography of light.
Beginning with the University’s historic ‘owl-of-Athena’ emblem, the drone display morphed into images such as a vast, ornate owl in flight, followed by symbols celebrating themes of learning, academia and sporting prowess. It culminated with tributes to the University’s former provosts and presidents before a warm welcome to the new president himself - Dr. Reginald DesRoches - ‘Reggie’.
Rice University Project Manager Matt Hester said of the experience, “From start to finish, the Verge Aero team, which also included drone technicians Owen Schneider and Kacey Samiee, was outstanding to work with for the Rice University Presidential Inauguration weekend. Chris provided clear expectations and a positive client experience as we explored options. Mason was an ace at taking user input, collaborating with our own artistic director, and creating a show that exceeded expectations.”
“The iterative review and development process for creating the content of the show was collaborative and very candid. Execution of the show itself was expertly and safely managed by Mason, Owen, and Kacey. I highly recommend Verge Aero as a partner for creating and executing a no-fail drone light show experience.”
Nils Thorjussen, CEO of Verge Aero, says, “It’s always a privilege to work with organisations like Rice University that seek to push the boundaries of what drone shows can be. It creates a unique artistic experience that spectators remember for the rest of their lives. We hope to do many more shows like this in the future.”
Verge Aero continues to be a revolutionary leader in the drone show industry, coordinating shows with more performance, precision, and fidelity than any other provider. Their success is made possible in large part due to the fact that they produce their own drones, software, and training for show designers and partner show providers, which maintains their shows’ quality, creativity, and reliability around the world.