Shanghai New Year partygoers miss the main event after it emerges drone display was pre-recorded

Gigi Choy

Revellers who expected to watch a New Year’s Eve air display by 2,020 drones over Shanghai’s Bund waterfront arrived to discover the event had been recorded for a television broadcast three days before and there was no performance to be seen.

Videos of a spectacular aerial light show went viral on Chinese and international social media in the days before the new year, prompting people to flock to the Huangpu riverside to watch on the night of December 31, but a source said there was no official announcement from the city about an air display and would-be spectators had misunderstood the adverts.

“I think those people took [the show] for granted and did not check,” he said.

On Friday, Alex Lin, of Guangdong-based drone builder EHang, which organised the display, said there was a rehearsal on December 27, recording for television took place on December 28, and the broadcast date was December 31.

Footage of the event on Shanghai Dragon Television showed the drones forming figures, including the shape of a giant man running across the sky.

“I was at the Bund yesterday, nothing happened,” one user of Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, wrote on Wednesday. “The video clip is pre-recorded and misleading.”

New Year celebrations in Shanghai have been low key since 2014, when 36 people were killed and about 50 were injured in a crush at Chen Yi Square on the Bund, where a crowd of about 300,000 people had gathered.

Traffic police in China are using drones to give orders from above

China has banned fireworks in more than 400 cities in an effort to curb air pollution, creating demand for alternative entertainment provided by businesses such as EHang.

In April 2018, the Guangzhou company set what was then a Guinness world record for the largest number of drones in flight at an air display, sending 1,374 up at a Labour Day show in Xian, the capital of northwestern Shaanxi province.

That record just lasted three months, until US chip maker Intel marked its 50th anniversary by flying 2,066 drones over its headquarters in northern California.

Additional reporting by Jerry Wu

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