This Is What Happens When a Drone Light Show Fails

Spectators, many of them children, ran in panic as drones spun out of control.
china drone zhengzhou henan
Drones are seen forming Chinese characters (left) before they fell out of the sky. Photo courtesy of Li and Kuaishou@wangshiwen0827

Drones fell out of the sky at a failed light show in China, prompting panicked spectators to run for cover.

A drone light show craze has taken over China over the past few years. Government departments, businesses, and tourist attractions often commission extravagant drone performances as part of their promotional campaigns.

But some of these drone light shows have gone very wrong. 

During a performance staged above a mall in the central city of Zhengzhou on Friday, drones began falling from the sky in the middle of the show, hitting buildings and vehicles on the ground.


In videos posted by local media, some 200 drones are seen forming the name of the shopping mall, before dozens went dark and plummeted. Spectators were then heard shouting “be careful” and “back off” as they ran away from the devices.

A witness surnamed Wang told local broadcaster Henan TV that some 5,000 people, many of them children, were watching the show when it went awry. He said people had to run away with hands on their heads.

A 20-year-old resident at the show, who only gave his surname Li, described to VICE World News a scene of chaos.

“More and more drones came off,” Li said. “Some flew very far away, and some hit the trees.” He said staff members let people seek refuge inside the mall and picked up the drones from the floor. 

Li said he would still watch drone shows in the future. “They are still quite impressive,” he said. “But I will keep a safe distance.” 

It’s unclear what exactly caused the accident. An organizer told China News Services that “operation errors” might have led to the fall, and no injuries had been reported. 

Several other accidents have occurred at drone shows across China. In January, a group of drones crashed onto a building and then fell off during a test run in the southwestern city of Chongqing. 

In May last year, 17 drones crashed during a holiday performance in the southwestern city of Chengdu. Police later found out that employees from another drone company had caused the crash with drone jammers, after their own bid to carry out the performance was rejected.

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