Perth drone show ‘City of Light’ hit with $100k repair bill after mass malfunction

Christmas light show presented by Gina Rinehart’s mining empire is blasted as a ‘disappointment’ and hit with a $100,000 bill after massive drone malfunction

  • City of Light series opened on Saturday with Christmas-themed drone shows 
  • Drone malfunctions during Sunday’s show saw 50 drones fall from the sky
  • The damages are estimated to total around $100,000 in lost equipment
  • Investigations are underway and divers are looking for the drones in Swan River
  • Footage showed a number of the lit-up drones appearing to vanish from the sky 

A Christmas celebration presented by billionaire Gina Rinehart’s mining empire is facing a $100,000 bill after 50 drones from the high-tech show plunged into the river. 

The City of Lights series kicked off in Perth on Saturday with the top drawcard being a 500-strong drone light show displaying Christmas scenes in the sky above Elizabeth Quay and the Swan River.

But the show, presented by Ms Rinehart’s Hancock Group of companies, including Hancock Prospecting, Roy Hill and Atlas Iron, took a turn on Sunday. 

During the Sunday show, which kicked off at 8pm, video showed the drones malfunctioning before they suddenly dropped from the sky and splashed into the river.

Drone Sky Show managing director Joshua Van Ross later revealed one in every 10 drones in the 500-strong light show malfunctioned.

Onlookers captured the drones falling out of the sky during the Christmas-themed light show with the attempted showing of the Roy Hill sponsor coming up short

Onlookers captured the drones falling out of the sky during the Christmas-themed light show with the attempted showing of the Roy Hill sponsor coming up short

The Sunday show was presented by Roy Hill, one of the companies in Gina Rinehart's Hancock Group

The Sunday show was presented by Roy Hill, one of the companies in Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Group

‘I did cry a little bit last night, I am trying not to think about it … but it was an expensive show for us,’ he told WA Today.

Van Ross said that the company was looking into GPS interference to see what went wrong, and that wind interference was a possible cause.

‘If there is any wind interference drones do hit each other, that does happen, propellers snap, there are things that go wrong … two to three drones [falling] per show is actually normal … last night was not normal,’ he said.

The loss in equipment is estimated to be around $100,000, Van Ross said. 

Divers on Monday were attempting to retrieve the equipment from the river. 

The light shows were run to ‘tell the story of a Christmas in the City’, with Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas saying that the West Australian capital was synonymous with light.

The drone shows opened the City of Lights, a celebration of both Christmas and Perth city

The drone shows opened the City of Lights, a celebration of both Christmas and Perth city

‘After the success of the CBD’s first drone show this February, the City of Light shows will honour our new brand and reinforce that no city lights up like Perth,’ he said.

Mayor Zempilas told WA Today he accepted the drone show on Sunday ‘fell short of expectation’.

‘Of course I accept that the drone show on Sunday night fell short of expectation, and that was, as I understand, because of technical issues … things can go wrong with technology of this kind,’ he said.

‘From a city’s point of view, what I am absolutely delighted about is how many people we had in the city, how activated Elizabeth Quay and Barrack Square was.’

Perth Mayor Basil Zempilas (pictured) admitted the Sunday show 'fell short of expectations'

Perth Mayor Basil Zempilas (pictured) admitted the Sunday show ‘fell short of expectations’

Onlookers could be heard gasping in disappointment in the footage uploaded online, with one audience member saying ‘see ya’ as the drones continued to fall.

An audience member uploaded a video of the incident on Reddit, with commenters voicing their disappointment.

‘How disappointing was that whole thing,’ one said.

Another blasted the show as being ‘an absolute disgrace.’

Other users were concerned about the environmental impact of the debris, saying they ‘thought drones light shows were meant to be better for the environment than regular fireworks’ and that they ‘doubt [that] plastic and batteries dropping into the river in that quantity is not going to have some negative consequences’.

There is an internal investigation being carried out to find out what happened, with Mayor Zempilas confirming that ratepayers would not have to pay for the damaged equipment. 

The City of Perth is awaiting the results of the Drone Sky Show review before going ahead with future planned shows. 

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