On Tuesday evening, Verge Aero delivered a unique aerial tribute to medical staff and essential workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The display of gratitude took place opposite the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania as part of the global #LightItBlue and local #PhillyShinesBlue campaigns, not far from Verge Aero’s Pennovation Works offices at the University of Pennsylvania.
The aerial light show was launched from Philadelphia’s Franklin Field football stadium, adjacent to the hospital complex. 140 extremely bright drones configured themselves into giant images up to 400 feet above the ground, making themselves visible throughout the University of Pennsylvania campus and medical centre as well as far away across the Schuylkill River in downtown Philadelphia.
The drone light show featured images designed to offer hope, thanks, and love. There were also reminders to wear masks, wash hands, and maintain social distancing. Giant hearts danced around, and the iconic LOVE artwork by Pop artist Robert Indiana floated gracefully over the City of Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love.
Emergency vehicles with lights flashing appeared in front of the hospital to announce the start of the drone light show. “The show was planned to ensure maximum visibility for those inside the hospital and allow them to view the show while maintaining social distance,” said Verge Aero CEO Nils Thorjussen. “There was no advance publicity. We flew the show solely for these heroes and wanted them to enjoy it in a safe environment without crowds.”
He added: “This was an opportunity for us to donate our resources and expertise to stand in solidarity with these brave heroes, and convey the thanks of the American people. We are profoundly grateful for their tireless work, dedication, and sacrifice.”
Given the urban environment and proximity to multiple hospital helipads, the show required careful coordination across the University, especially the Division of Public Safety and the PennSTAR Flight Program, as well as with the City of Philadelphia and the FAA. Representatives from the FAA also appeared on site to inspect the system and ensure the show would be flown safely and in keeping with FAA regulations. “We are deeply thankful to everyone who got involved and helped make it all happen,” said Thorjussen.
In accordance with stay at home mandates, #LightItBlue focuses on buildings with existing LED lighting or video screen technology which can be remotely programmed. Thanks to its efficient system design, including advanced pre-programming and control capabilities, Verge Aero’s fleet of drones could be deployed by just two trained technicians, who were easily able to work while observing social distancing guidelines.
Originating in the UK, the #LightItBlue initiative gained traction with the USA’s events and entertainment industry from late March. Across the country, buildings, bridges and landmarks have been illuminated to salute health care professionals and essential workers. From Niagara Falls to the Staples Center in LA, and from Chicago’s Soldier Field to Boston City Hall, blue lights have signalled the people’s heartfelt thanks. A similar lighting campaign, #PhillyShinesBright, was rolled out on World Health Day in Philadelphia to honour the frontline.