As I make my way to Bedfordshire I am unsure what to expect from a new kids TV series that is featuring drones, but if the two enormous Airship hangars that greet me are anything to go by, I am expecting big things.
The hangars truly are titanic in their size, and I’m told that scenes from iconic films such as Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Inception were filmed in one. But now the hangars are home to a very different kind of show, which is known as Airmageddon.
From the producers of Robot Wars and DHX in association with Conceive Media, the brand new show will see kids pit their flying abilities against each other using drones through a series of competitions and challenges.
Walking into the hangar I can’t wait to see the studio where the show is being filmed, and soon enough I am on the tour and taken up some rickety steps to get a glance of the set from above.
In the distance I can hear the hum of a drone buzzing around the set, which is being controlled by one of the kids who have made it into the competition. They are guiding the drone around an assault course from a glass container in the centre of the set, known as the crow’s nest.
The course is littered with all sorts of challenges, including different sized hoops the drone must go through, as well as bars that the kids have to guide their drone under or over.
Watching the drone flying around is transfixing, but before I know it it’s tumbling down and has crashed onto the concrete floor. Despite the fall most certainly resulting in some expensive handiwork to fix it, I am told that these kinds of crashes ‘make the show’.
Airmageddon is the brainchild of Steve Carsey, who also produced Robot Wars, and he believes the show has traction to become global.
He tells me: “If Airmageddon sells around the world and becomes recognised that will be brilliant, because I think drones are a universal phenomenon and this show will work all over the world.”
At the moment the second series for the show is being filmed, with the first series set to hit screens from February 20th to 26th.
Once the drone training is finished, I’m guided down to the set where I am offered the chance to walk through the Airmageddon branded doors, complete with smoke, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity.
This just goes to show how much enjoyment kids must get from taking part in the show, despite the fact that some drones have been depicted negatively in the press.
“I think sometimes drones get a bad press and it’s too easy for new technology to be misunderstood or abused,” explains Carsey.
“We can’t escape the point that drones are going to be here forever now, they’re going to grow, and they’re going to touch our lives in more interesting ways. And of course we have to be responsible for how they’re used and how they touch our lives, but this show is showing just how amazing they are and just what is possible with the technology.”
Next up I’m taken to meet some of the resident drones, including the Wasp, Dragon and Pig. Each have been decked out with bold iconic features, such as a sting for the Wasp, a snout for the Pig and horns for the Dragon.
I can’t help but think how great these characters would look downsized as a toy on shelves in stores, and it’s a possibility according to Carsey. “Certainly there’s no guarantee there will be toys on shelves, but we know one day hopefully there will be and we have created a foundation creatively for that to happen,” he comments.
Just looking across the set and the types of drones that star in the show, I can see there is a great deal of technology embedded within it, but Carsey doesn’t want to stop there.
Carsey says: “There are all sorts of things coming down the line in terms of cameras and GPS technology, which will allow us to be more ambitious and braver with the kind of games and the challenges we have created. Fingers crossed that we end up recording more shows.”
It’s now my turn to have a go at flying a mini drone. Despite my earlier thoughts that guiding a drone around must be really easy, I was terribly wrong. It turns out flying a drone is quite tricky as you must maintain the hover control of the drone, whilst also turning left or right, and up or down.
When asked if he is a drone flyer, Carsey tells me: “No, I have had a go and it’s actually really, really hard.”
Luckily I’m not the only one then.
Even though I struggled to grasp the flying capabilities kids seem to pick up so easily, Carsey is hopeful that the TV show will be able to continue getting harder to keep the competition fierce.
“What is relevant is what we think the kids will be able to achieve and do – keeping that level of difficulty really high, whilst keeping the production values and visuals really impressive,” adds Carsey.
“We can’t get so far ahead of ourselves that we create a show that is unfair or is impossible for the kids to compete. But I know without any hesitation that the kids will get better and we will find better and better kids to compete, and as we do that the show will get bigger and better.“