Johns Hopkins alum helps bring drone light show to Brilliant Baltimore

The event, which combines Light City and the Baltimore Book Festival, includes an aerial art show organized in part by 2012 Hopkins graduate Victor Ekanem

Video: WJZ

Visitors to Baltimore's Inner Harbor this weekend will be treated to a colorful aerial art show performed by a fleet of drones as part of the Brilliant Baltimore festival.

The drone light show will involve as many as 60 unmanned aerial vehicles flying in automated and synchronized formations with colored lights. They'll create several Baltimore-themed mid-air pantomimes, including a massive illustration of a sailing boat, symbolizing the city's historical ties to the shipping industry.

"We do work all over the world, but Baltimore is a very special area for us," says Victor Ekanem, the director of engineering for the Global Air Drone Academy, part of Global Air Media, which is putting on the show. "Because of that, we look for ways to broaden our scope and get the message of what we do to more people there."

Ekanem, who received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins in 2012, got involved with Global Air Media after meeting the company's co-founder, Eno Umoh, during a service trip to Nigeria and seeing how the drone workshops and STEM instruction enriched the lives of young people. Ekanem approached Umoh to learn more about getting involved with using drone technology to inspire and enlighten others.

"My interest has always been about impact and being on the leading edge of technology and discovering how we use that to inspire others," Ekanem says.

He says that Brilliant Baltimore—a 10-day event that combines the artistry of the Light City festival with the Baltimore Book Festival's annual celebration of literary arts—is a powerful platform to share their team's message about the importance of STEM education with a large audience. But he and the rest of the Global Air Media team have taken steps to ensure that message travels beyond the footprint of the festival.

While Brilliant Baltimore takes place in concentrated areas of downtown Baltimore, Ekanem and the Global Air Media team will travel to different locations in the city for their "Neighborhood Lights" series, bringing light art, literature, music, and STEM activities—including pop-up drone racing cages—to branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

"We really wanted to take what we're doing and bring it into communities around Baltimore," Ekanem says. "We didn't want to keep it in one central location."

Global Air Media will also partner with the Federal Aviation Administration to promote Drone Safety Awareness Week.

"This coming week has really been a cool combination of events," Ekanem says. "But we believe drones are a part of the future, and our mission is to educate people young and old about how to use drones recreationally and commercially."

The Drone Light Show will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 and 2 at Pier 5 in the Inner Harbor. Global Air Media's Neighborhood Lights series will pop up at Enoch Pratt Free Library locations around the city Nov. 1-9. Johns Hopkins University is a Brilliant Baltimore sponsor.

Posted in Arts+Culture