Drones and Diplomacy at the Winter Olympics

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Drones, Guinness World Records, and an appearance by North Korea – if you haven’t yet tuned into the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang since they began on February 9, you should check them out in the next two weeks. Since NBC holds the exclusive rights to the events, you’ll have to watch on either their broadcast channel, the NBC Sports app, or their website.

An average of 23.6 million people watched the Olympics across those platforms during the first five nights of coverage, with the opening ceremonies alone garnering 28.3 million viewers. These numbers were higher than NBC had originally projected, and the network subsequently freed up more advertising space that they had been holding aside to compensate advertisers should the statistics have been more disappointing.

Meanwhile, the biggest political story to come out of Pyeongchang has been North Korea. They were absent from the Sochi Olympics, and their presence at the games is especially surprising this year because of their numerous missile tests in 2017 as well as the repeated trash talking between Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump.

Furthermore, not only is the country participating in the competition, but they also marched under one unified flag with North Korea in the opening ceremonies, which hasn’t happened since the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. Plus, twelve North Korean female hockey players have been playing on a joint hockey team with South Korea. Along with their athletes, the country sent a delegation of 400 people, including an orchestra, a team of cheerleaders, and Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong.

Don’t get your hopes up, though – despite lots of speculation, their threats of nuclear warfare have yet to be resolved. Rather, this seems to more of a propagandic offensive move designed to improve Kim Jong-un’s image. Allowing his country to compete, especially with their enemies, is likely calculated to make him appear more benevolent and generous.

This could also be a strategy to start North Korea on the path to enter into diplomacy with other nations and end their isolation. An improved relationship with South Korea could also serve as a stepping stone to negotiating with the US, although this could be wishful thinking. So far, North Koreans at home still haven’t even been able to watch any of the events.

As for the technology involved in the ceremonies, despite their opening ceremony plans going awry, Intel broke the Guinness World Record for the largest number of drones flown simultaneously while they were rehearsing for the ceremonies. Their flight of 1,218 drones at the same time shattered their own previous record of 500, which was set in Germany in 2016.

Intel made a statement that there were “too many spectators in the area” to safely perform their drone light show live during the opening ceremonies, but NBC aired footage of the prerecorded version for viewers of the tape-delayed broadcast. The live show would have been a smaller version of the spectacle with only 300 drones.

The aerial vehicles used were the Shooting Star drones, which include an onboard GPS and barometer and have the ability to display billions of combinations of lights and colors. Even more impressive, the software that controls these machines allows for one pilot to control an entire fleet at once.

Watch the behind-the-scenes of Intel’s spectacular drone show here:

In social media news, starting February 10, NBC has been utilizing Snapchat’s new Live feature to live stream short (between two and six minutes) segments from the Olympics each day. These featurettes disappear from the app after streaming, and right now only Snapchat’s publishing partners have the ability to make live videos.

The 2018 Winter Olympics come to a close on February 25. Stay updated on each country’s medal count with online mapping company Esri’s medal tracking tool.

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