‘Sky theatre’ with synchronised drone displays | G7 series

Drones in the sky

Somerset-based drone display company raises £460,000 following investment support from Innovate UK EDGE. The company is now valued at £3.5m.

A Somerset-based display company, which uses ‘swarms’ of synchronised, illuminated drones to create spectacular shapes in the night sky, has generated global headlines following its impressive debut performance in Edinburgh.

Celestial LabsHogmanay display saw 8 million online views of its performance within just three weeks and was covered by 650 news outlets across 50 territories, reaching a combined global audience of some 2bn people. 

“We put storytelling at the heart of everything we do, using advanced technologies to bring the stars a little closer and create a shared sense of wonder,” says Tony Martin, CEO, Celestial Labs.

“There are very few drone display companies in the world, and I think our focus on storytelling is what makes us truly unique. Other companies will focus on breaking records or putting client logos up in the sky, but for us, innovation must serve the purpose of creating an emotionally anchored narrative.”

Celestial’s drones use sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI), to enable them to communicate and fly in complex formations to create distinctive, remarkable images. The drones are powered by renewable energy sources and are an environmentally friendly alternative to fireworks, eliminating the fire risks, toxic gasses and metal deposits associated with traditional pyrotechnic displays.

According to researchers from King’s College London, the use of traditional pyrotechnics is increasingly seen as an environmental issue. They highlight, for instance, that across India, Diwali fireworks have been linked to a 30% – 40% increase in recorded breathing problems.

Celestial is now continuing to innovate. It has recently prototyped technology that captures human dance and simulates those movements with drones in the sky, creating even more spectacular displays.

The company is also identifying humanitarian uses for its technology. Opportunities include creating digital signage in the sky that could help evacuate people from bushfires, provide information on aid drops, or point migrants towards water sources on the US / Mexico border.

For now, however, entertainment remains Celestial’s main focus.

Shortly after its incorporation in January 2020, the company was forced to pivot quickly in response to the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the live entertainment and events sectors. However, by swapping crowds for cameras and by using in-house production expertise to create a film of its Hogmanay performance, Celestial was still able to deliver its first major public show and reach a worldwide audience.

International cooperation with a South Korean technology company to develop drone hardware has been key to Celestial’s immediate impact, as well as a successful funding round following support from Innovate UK EDGE. 

 

Investment readiness support from Innovate UK EDGE

In May 2020, Tony began work with Innovate UK EDGE Finance Specialist, Jake Ronay.

“Jake’s support has made a massive difference to us,” says Tony. “There are so many funding bodies, pools of money and potential routes to go down – his expertise enabled us to navigate that minefield and pick out the right opportunities.”

Working closely with Jake, Celestial developed a comprehensive investment readiness strategy, including a detailed pitch deck and investment pack providing a set of comprehensive answers to the key questions that investors ask.

In June 2020, Celestial set an objective of raising £380,000 in Seed Funding but with the substantial interest generated by the opportunity, they raised a total of £460,000 and as such, grew the company valuation from zero to £3.5m within only two months.

“The funding has allowed us to get the business off the ground and compete on an international stage,” continues Tony. “Without support from Jake and our Innovation and Growth Specialist, Natalie Collard, we simply wouldn’t have been able to find these funding routes, and a lot of other opportunities would never have come our way.”

Celestial is now partnering with major international organisations to deliver ecological messages to world leaders and has ambitions to perform at the world’s most iconic events, including major festivals and New Year’s Eve shows for the world’s largest cities.

Innovate UK EDGE will continue to offer game-changing support as this South West business engages with a global market, and pushes new boundaries in storytelling and technology.