AUSTIN, Texas (KEYE) — 600 drones lit up the night sky in downtown Austin, Texas, on Friday night, creating a visual of light and technology for South by Southwest. The drones flew for an hour with a countdown clock to reveal a special surprise at the end.
It was a unique experience for some of the people that were attending SXSW. At the end of the countdown clock, a QR code finally popped up with an interesting surprise. Rick Astley's official music video "Never Going to Give You Up" was the special surprise everyone was waiting an hour for. Austinites were "Rickrolled."
"Just to get Rickrolled in such an amazing way is just pure South By Meme-ery to me," said SXSW attendee Mitch Chaiet.
"My boy has been dreaming about drone shows for like days. He's just been like wanting to see the drone show, and well, he got one," Orlando Gil said.
Rickrolling is when you troll someone on the internet by linking to the "Never Going to Give You Up" music video. After the special surprise, people that were waiting for the clock to hit zero said it was something that they didn't expect.
"Honestly, I love it. We literally left the venue we were at to come and see this and for it to just like switch up like that and be a classic rickrolled meme. Genius," said David Hernandez.
After the QR code was lit up, other images of Master Chief and Cortana were shown hovering over downtown Austin. KEYE got a closer look at the preparations for the drone show earlier in the day on Friday.
“We’ve done 400 before. I don’t believe 600 drones have flown over Austin,” said Tyler Johnson, director of operations for Sky Elements.
Coordinating 600 drones is not an easy job. To make it happen, Sky Elements took over the athletic field at the Texas School for the Deaf in South Austin.
We’re going to fly a continuous hour-long countdown with a little bit of a surprise at the end,” said Johnson. “We’re actually doing a really cool technology tonight where we’re going to fly different fleets of drones that make up different parts of the countdown. It should allow for the countdown to be completely seamless.”
What people saw was a giant, aerial countdown clock compromised of drones that could be seen for three miles.
“Right now we’re unloading our trucks. We’re getting ready to set up the drone grid of 600 drones on the ground. Every done has to have a battery. Every drone has to be individually calibrated. There’s still a lot of work left for us to do before we’re ready to rock and roll,” said Johnson.
The drone show was directly overhead at the Texas School for the Deaf. To get the best view, Austinites found a spot north of the school in downtown Austin.
After waiting in the cold for an hour, SXSW attendees and Austinites that lined up on Cesar Chavez Street got a show they weren't expecting but were left with a good laugh to end the night.