We have a pretty cool story to share with you today about upcoming plans to fly X-Wing drones over Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. According to sources, and backed up by the photos below, Disney is currently testing two SUV-sized X-Wing drones to fly over Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Disney has been somewhat secretly working on a project in the Cast Member parking lot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios over the past few weeks, constructing a temporary tent with a lot of security involved. The tent was constructed right around the time of the ABC Christmas special taping at the park, which led many to believe (us included) that it was an extra space for production equipment and crews to use. As we would come to learn, this space is actually being used by the teams working on the X-Wing drone project.
Now, before we get any further, we want to properly set expectations. It is our understanding that you, the Disney guest, will likely never see these drones with your own eyes. As we’re told, the X-Wing drones will just be utilized for the Rise of the Resistance media event and very likely not again. The X-Wing drones are just the latest in an ever-growing list of exclusive experiences that the media have received when covering Disney’s billion dollar land. Some other exclusive experiences never to be seen since are a battle stunt show that played out at Disneyland during the grand opening media event, and a walk-around Hondo Ohnaka character at the Walt Disney World grand opening media event. Now, if everything goes to plan, media will once again be treated to quite the impressive display of technology and Disney magic that the average guest won’t be able to experience when they visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in the coming months.
Our reasoning that this testing is for a temporary display relies on a couple of key points. First, the setup itself is temporary. As you can see in some of our recent aerial photos below, a plastic tent, shipping containers, and a fence don’t exactly say “permanent”. While we’re on the topic, let’s take a look at some of the infrastructure changes that have taken place in the BB-8 lot to support the testing.
First, here’s a look at the portion of the BB-8 lot that is being used for the testing, and is actually the first portion of the lot to be filled by Cast Members arriving for their shift during the day. During testing, the entire lot seen in the center of the below photo is off-limits for parking. The lot seen in the bottom left of the photo is a guest lot and is unaffected by testing.
Here’s a closer look at the tent we had mentioned. Disney puts the drones away in the tent for safekeeping during the day.
A closer look at the BB-8 lot reveals a couple of changes. First, light poles have been removed to allow for a safe airspace. Temporary lighting rigs are set up for when the lot is in use by Cast Members, and then rolled away for drone testing.
There are also what appear to be new markings of some sort in the lanes of the parking lot.
Ok, with a look at the lot out of the way, let’s return to our reasoning that this will be a temporary show. While Disney was granted a waiver to operate drones back in November 2016, we understand that the permit applied to small drones, not drones of the size that you’ll see below. It doesn’t look like Disney has FAA permission to fly these large drones in a permanent manner. Third, the operation of these drones takes up a lot of space in the Cast Member parking lot, nearly half of the BB-8 lot is cleared for a staging and landing space during the testing. There is no real infrastructure available yet. All that said, it’s certainly possible that Disney could eventually work the X-Wing drones into the entertainment in the sky, or Skymosphere, in the future, but if you’re planning a visit to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in the coming months and maybe longer, we wouldn’t plan on seeing these X-Wing drones. It’s also possible that Disney might want to operate the drones for the first few days after the opening event, but based on past opening events, that seems unlikely.
Ok, with tempered expectations, here’s a look at the unbelievably impressive X-Wing drones that were tested recently. As described to us, there are two X-Wing drones being tested together, possibly meaning that they will fly together during a grand opening show. The X-Wings are roughly the size of an SUV, if not bigger. In the photo sent to us below, you can see a drone operator working on one of the two X-Wing drones between flights.
Of course, it’s when they take to the skies that they are really impressive! In this next photo sent to us, they appear to be internally lit, and the drone parts fade away into the blackness of the night as we’re left with completely realistic, massive X-Wing drones that are sure to awe during the opening night media event.
In another photo sent in to us, you can see that the shape of the X-Wing appears to be a wireframe or other translucent material that likely allows for the wonderful lighting package seen above. We can also see the drone blades. It appears to be two, four-bladed clusters in the back and two, four-bladed clusters in the front.
Finally, here’s a look at the top of the Rise of the Resistance structure. As you can see in the photos below, there are some temporary lights set up. Again, these are likely just for the media event and not for daily use. We saw a similar lighting setup in place for the Disneyland grand opening media event.
As always, stick with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to cover the opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and much more from around the Disney Parks!