4 Show-Stopping Moments When QR Code Drones Took Flight

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it’s a QR Code. Lit in the skyline of Shanghai, Miami, Austin, and Dallas, hundreds of thousands of drones glistened among the stars to form a mega, four-sided polygon. While drone light shows are still relatively new to public attention, gracing the skylines since 2012, QR Code history doesn’t stretch too far back to its invention in 1994. So what happens when two state-of-the-art technologies collide? A mighty force is born.

On this upward spiral in tech, modern smartphones are also onboard. With a built-in QR Code reader, you can take pleasure in swiftly scanning Codes from the ground below to the sky above. Looking around, the trajectory is clear: QR Codes are the future of marketing.

What is a QR Code drone light show? 

It’s a synchronized dance performance of illuminated drones arranging themselves to form a perfect scannable QR Code in the sky. The artistic dance is executed with a computer program, which gives commands to the drones themselves. So just in case, you’re a conspiracy theorist—no, these QR Code drones, don’t have a mind of their own. 

Drone’s entry into sky advertising and sky marketing

Sky advertising also referred to as aerial advertising is a non-conventional type of marketing that takes flight in the sky. Skybanners, skywriting, and the flyest kid on the block—drones—all fall under the umbrella of sky advertising. 

Why drone marketing has been shooting for the stars

Drone marketing, in short, is how campaigns use drones to shoot footage from an aerial viewpoint, for various marketing goals. This footage captures cinematography from an eagle eye’s point of view in the sky. They can shoot where other camera equipment can’t and can capture what the human eye simply can’t. 

The rise in popularity is due to the incessant demand for video content. Seasoned brands, such as Coca-Cola, Red Bull, and Twitter, to name a few, have time and time again, delivered highly engaging and viral video ad campaigns. 

Notably, Porsche used drone footage in their video commercial to showcase the velocity, power, and visceral feeling of what driving the Taycan Cross Turismo, a Red Bull Formula 1 car could be like. This is when Johnny FPV, influencer, and master droner committed a cinematic history, amassing millions of views on YouTube.

A brief, but succinct history of drone light shows 

But drone marketing has set flight on a new ethereal stage for all eyes to see: light shows in the sky. And it looks auspicious. Their market size is projected to increase from 2.63 billion USD in 2020 to 12.31 billion USD in 2028.  

They have come a long way. It was only in 2012 when Ars Electronica delighted the audience with a total of 50 aerial instruments, that took flight like a flock of birds. This was the first recorded drone show. 

Since then, these kinds of shows have taken a quantum leap in the entertainment industry, leaving a lasting impression on the public eye. Some of the most momentous events that have entered the stage of the nighttime skylines are Lady Gaga’s “Shooting Star” performance, featuring a drone display of the Pepsi logo and the American flag as a backdrop at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2017.  
Another is Netflix’s ambitious venture for the animation movie “Over the Moon” to shoot a drone display on a night of the full moon, aligning with the lunar cycles. One unforgettable performance is when Genesis, introduced their brand to the Chinese market, breaking the Guinness book of records for the biggest and possibly coolest light display of 3,281 drones.

Why QR Code drones in the sky are the next best phenomenon 

Aerial light performances along with QR Code drones keep on making more unexpected appearances worldwide. It’s clear that it’s reshaping the world of tech, marketing, and advertising. Let’s find out how it can benefit other industries in the future.  

#1 Delivers crowd-pleasing promos   

Drone light shows have given movie premieres a glow-up. There’s nothing that encapsulates the old idiom “go big or go home” more than a choreographed light display to promote a movie. 

Captivating the crowd at the Men in Black (MIB) movie premiere at the Giffoni Film Festival in Italy, a formation of lights lifted into the air to form a UFO spacecraft. The illusion of the alien invasion was apt, to say the least, fully evoking tropes of the story from the MIB movie. 

What could enhance this MIB light show is weaving a QR Code into the scene. 

Integrating them into the choreography of the light performance fills the air with a level of suspense. After all, there’s only one way to find out what happens after you scan a QR Code in the sky. 

#2 Tracks your marketing campaigns

QR Codes in the sky opens up wider possibilities for generating new leads. Better, the QR Code tracking feature provides essential information for any marketing campaign: user behavior—a pot of gold for marketers. Opt for the dynamic version—Dynamic QR Code, to glean the benefits of tracking and editing your campaign.  

The metrics feature allows you to track the operating system used while scanned, user location by city and country, the total number of scans and unique scans, the time period when your code was scanned, and know what your ROI (return of investment) is. With all this data, you’ll have no problem creating a compelling campaign.

#3 Attracts a wider audience  

QR Code drone light shows create more brand engagement opportunities: one, because of the wide visibility of the giant square block in the sky, and two, smartphones allow you to scan and capture visual content of it.  

The novelty of aerial lighting shows, in general, hasn’t worn off quite yet, which is why they exhibit a coolness factor that makes them spread like wildfire. Putting on an exuberant light performance in tandem with filming creates viral content that attracts a wider audience pool. 

An important factor to consider is deciding what you want to create hype around. Is it your video content or your website? Is it your social media channel or is it your app? Whatever you decide, a lighting performance is a sure route to expose your brand. 

Once you’ve laid down the groundwork, the aerial formations will do the rest of the work for you. Leave it to the audience to capture the magnificent, giant square in the sky with their phones and then sit back and watch how it becomes shareable visual content over social media.

And with more exposure, you won’t only retrieve the scans of people who can physically see the QR Code drones in the sky, but also from people who’ve curiously scanned it once they’ve seen it all over the internet. 

#4 Amplifies engagement 

Interactive ads are meant to engage the audience.  In short, they hook your audience.

By design, interactive ads invite the user to interact with the ad, so that they are fully immersed in the experience, and ignoring the ad isn’t an option. 

We suspect there’s little chance that hundreds of flickering lights, suspended mid-air to form an oversized QR Code are going to be ignored. That’s what makes them so brilliant. They organically invite a more interactive experience. People aren’t just looking up at the sky and marveling at the illuminated images passively  —  no they’re instinctively reaching into their pockets to scan and share their experiences with others. 

Once the lighting machines levitate in the dark sky, it waits for the reaction of the audience. Once that happens, the user is transported from the sky to the online world to either watch the video, download the app, or learn about a product. Whatever the outcome, the user is meant to actively participate in the experience upon observing the square-patterned code. 

4 Epic drone QR Codes that graced the sky

We’ve officially stepped into a new era of marketing where QR Codes have found a new stage to perform on—the nighttime sky. This is history in the making. 

#1 The Bilibili lighting show in Shanghai

Over the Bund, the infamous waterfront promenade in Shanghai, a Chinese gaming company, Bilibili, put on an aerial performance that changed the trajectory of marketing. The whole world stood still while 1500 drones soared among the skyscrapers and stars to form a flickering four-sided frame.   

The purpose of the advertising stunt was to commemorate the Japanese role-playing mobile game, Princess Connect Re. First, they wooed the crowd with aerial displays of characters from the mobile game, then, as the perfect call to action, a giant scannable two-dimensional code appeared center sky.  

By scanning the QR Code in the sky, users were directed to a landing page to download the mobile game. This kind of mobile-marketing scheme is theatrical as it is practical. The performance lasted for about 2 minutes and commenced by introducing the characters of the game. Storytelling played a pivotal role. Then, once the audience is invested, they scanned the code.

We can see how smoothly the App QR Code could work in this scenario. That means smartphone users could download it either from the App Store or Google Play.  Can you imagine your promotion ad in the sky? Bilibili has elevated the stage.

#2 Travis Scott’s aerial performance in Miami

Lights, camera, action. Cue the fireworks (sorry), we mean the QR Code drones.  It’s no secret that the world adores Travis Scott. The rapper, singer, and music producer has been revered as more than an artist—named an “unofficial brand king”. And after he dropped a banger of single at the Rolling Loud festival in 2021, he became a trailblazer.   

Travis Scott pulled off a stunt never done before by any artist: he released his single, “Escape Plan” via QR Code drones. It was the perfect set-up: his live performance was accompanied by 250 drones hovering above the stage, only to form a larger-than-life square-shaped grid in the Miami sky. Fans didn’t see it coming

As the crowd’s jaws dropped, they raised their smartphones to capture the majestic patterned shape in the sky that directed them to a Spotify playlist where they could listen to the single. 

Looking for a solution that could upstage your music event? Try the MP3 QR Code to release your single or album. Sometimes it takes a pioneer like Travis Scott to pave the way for other artists to integrate innovative tech into performances. Benefit from using a QR Code for music events and take advertising to the sky. 

#3 Austin’s apocalyptic square in the sky

Opening the show of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, a mysterious, spooky, giant, and pixelated square lit up the Austin sky. 400 drones huddled together to morph into a QR Code in the sky. 

But that wasn’t the only light display of the evening: suspended over the skyline, people were stunned to watch aerial vehicles form into a Paramount logo and in clear-lilac illuminated writing, showing the release date of the Halo series. 

The grand light performance was part of a marketing campaign by Giant Spoon to promote the popular Xbox game, the new upcoming Sci-fi series Halo, which was set to stream for the first time on March 24, 2022. 

Austinites who captured the scan opened a website to watch the Halo series trailer. If Austinites didn’t know about the new series before, now they do! Marketing gimmicks like these foreshadow the future of series and movie advertisements.
This kind of ploy can be pulled off with 2 innovative technologies: drones and a QR Code solution. And we know just the solution you’d need to make this happen for your campaign: a Video QR Code. With the sky as your platform, and QR Code drones as your launching pad, you never have to worry about your video getting exposure again.

#4 Dallas’s rickrolled prank

The biggest rickrolled prank was recorded in history when 300 hundred drones made a fool out of the locals of Dallas. Sky Elements, drone show extraordinaire, and expert aerial entertainers—as well as professional goofballs it seems—were the masterminds behind this prank. 

As the aerial formation ascended over the downtown Dallas skies, people observing scanned the pixelated squares only to find an unexpected video on their screens: the classic Rick Asley, music video “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Dallas locals officially got rickrolled. 

No idea what that means? Allow us to explain. To rickroll (a verb) is to trick someone on the internet into watching the Rick Asley music video. This 1987 hit song has become part of pop culture, with its first prank dating back to 2008. The pranksters at Sky Elements got a good ole chuckle out of their elaborate leg-pull.  

Sky Elements April fool’s prank may not be the marketing stunt of the year but more for the sheer enjoyment of bringing joy and wonder to others. It reminds us that some Tomfoolery and humor are always encouraged.

First in the black skies of Shanghai, now on April Fools Day, QR Code drones are becoming a more frequent affair. Between 2020 and 2022, drone lighting performances have formed four-sided figures in the sky, giving us a glimpse into the future of marketing.

They have an extravagant star quality about them that arouses a universal experience of awe that no one can deny. Now’s the time to launch your next marketing or advertising campaign with some trusted allies: QR Codes and drones.

Robyn Albertyn

Robyn Albertyn is a content writer for Bitly from Cape Town, South Africa. She’s previously written about preventative health and wellness, and specializes in creative writing and copywriting. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her hiking up majestic mountains, or discovering the best coffee hotspots in her city. Feel free to say hi to her on LinkedIn.

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