The Verge Aero drone team pulled off the seemingly impossible at this year’s Experiential Marketing Summit (EMS) at the MGM Grand Las Vegas – flying a drone show high above the ballroom right next to Harry Reid International Airport.
Taking off from the MGM Grand parking garage – situated just a hundred yards from the airport tarmac – presented the Verge Aero team with a unique challenge. While a focus on safety and precision execution are always part of standard operating procedures, the tight confines of the flight envelope in an urban environment required extreme precision and attention to detail.
“The Experiential Marketing Summit team commissioned us to deliver an on-brand drone show to wow conference delegates, to be flown over the MGM Ballroom roof,” says Verge Aero’s Chris Lutts, who oversaw the project. “We had a tight timeline to design, program and create the show, and some interesting challenges!
“The first task was gaining permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly drones so close to the airport but, thankfully, we have a great working relationship with them. We submitted a comprehensive flight plan detailing how the show could be safely flown. Having previously worked closely with the FAA on multiple events, they approved the flight based on their confidence in our drone systems, professionalism, and ability to safely execute.”
The Verge Aero team also worked with the MGM risk management groups to ensure all checks and requirements were met. “We certainly dotted all the ‘i’s’ and crossed all the ‘t’s’ with MGM, which is a very large organization!” adds Lutts.
The show design incorporated much of Verge Aero’s content from their performance on the latest season of America’s Got Talent – where they received the coveted Golden Buzzer from Simon Cowell. The EMS team had seen the show and wanted to share it live with EMS attendees.
“We did, of course, have limitations on how many drones could be flown, given the space constraints imposed by the nearby boulevard and airport, but we still managed to design an eye-catching, perfectly choreographed display,” Lutts continues. “We imported logos into our Verge Aero drone show design software and expanded them into a colorful, morphing light show for attendees who watched from poolside at the MGM.”
All of the up-front planning made flying the show on site a streamlined process. The team rapidly deployed the drone fleet and were in and out of the facility in record time. “We do our homework before we get on-site,” says Lutts. “We’ve developed a series of processes and practices that mean Verge Aero can get to site, set up and run a show in the shortest timeframe, ensuring efficiency.”
“The drone show at EMS was one of the highlights of the event – many attendees had never seen a drone light show before so there were a lot of surprised faces, smiles and phones in the air capturing the moment,” says Jon McLoughlin, Director, Event Sales at Experiential Marketing Summit. “Verge Aero was awesome to work with. Their team was very professional and fully prepared to execute the show in a safe and secure way, while also handling all necessary approvals and paperwork needed to make the show happen.
“It was also super cool to see the EMS logo in the air as well. Brand visibility doesn’t get much bigger than that! The possibilities are endless.”
Photo: © Verge Aero