SINGAPORE: The drones were new at the National Day Parade this year, and they made an impression: The stunning images they formed against the night sky made the annual affair a special one for many spectators.
Despite seeing photographs of the vivid patterns created by the 300 unmanned drones in social media posts from the NDP previews, nothing came close to seeing them up close, said engineer Pritpal Singh, 31.
Mr Singh, who was attending the NDP for the third time, said: “The drones were so coordinated ... the different shapes and colours. It was better than I expected.”
He was not the only one in awe of the drone performance, which was billed as the largest such performance in Southeast Asia to date. Many other spectators Channel NewsAsia spoke to cited the drones as the key highlight of this year's NDP for them.
Their popularity was not a surprise as the Shooting Star drones, developed and manufactured by American technology firm Intel, are each equipped with built-in LED lights that can create over four billion colour combinations. They were designed specifically for such aerial formations and light shows.
“The drones were beautiful. I thought it was very interesting especially because it’s the first year,” said Mr Gene Ang, who was at the NDP for the first time.
Ms Annie Wong, 44, a civil servant who was there with seven family members, was also impressed with the level of technology that went into producing the segment.
PARADE AND CEREMONY, SIMULATED TERROR ATTACK GET SPECTATORS’ RAPT ATTENTION
Ms Wong’s five-year-old nephew Edlef Tang however, had his eyes peeled during the parade and ceremony segment, which featured 31 marching contingents and about 2,000 participants representing the five pillars of Total Defence.
Edlef was glued to his seat, and did not once complain that he was tired, said Ms Wong, laughing. But that did not come as a surprise, as the boy had made it clear that he wanted to watch the NDP live this year.
“He was not going to be able to come because we didn’t have enough tickets, but he asked me over and over again, at least six times. He’s going on a cruise later this year, and he even asked if he could exchange them for NDP tickets,” she said. She was eventually able to get a ticket for him from a friend.
Another cornerstone of this year's parade was the tribute to 50 years of National Service. To mark this milestone, a NS50 tribute video was screened, with older NSmen sharing their experiences with their sons. NSmen in the audience were also honoured, as they were asked to stand and given a salute from the parade.
Training executive Gary Quek enjoyed that part. “This is something you won’t always get to see at NDP. These are deserving people who serve the nation,” the 31-year-old said.
A simulated terror attack, another new element in the dynamic defence display, also struck a chord with spectators.
Ms Hasbiah Razali, 47, who was there with her five-year-old son said that the scenario, which at one point depicted two children being in danger, made her reflect.
“It was quite worrying. I thought about it, if my kids are in their shoes. Also, the action from all the officers, we don’t usually get to see that,” the housewife said.
It was also a special occasion for Ms Hasbiah as her two other sons, aged 20 and 22, are serving their national service and were also involved.
Ms Sharon Tan, 30, a tutor, also felt that the simulation was relevant. “I wasn’t expecting it, but it really shows what those who are protecting the country have to do in such a situation.”
And loud cheers greeted swimming stars Joseph Schooling and Yip Pin Xiu as they made a surprise appearance in the sixth act of the show segment.
THE FLOAT@MARINA BAY A HIT AS NDP VENUE
The parade's return to The Float after three years was also welcomed by several spectators.
Madam Masni, who was there with her son and his friends, said that she preferred the outdoor venue. Last year, the Red Lions could not parachute down the National Stadium for safety reasons.
"Indoors, because there are many stunts that we can’t witness, like the fireworks and Red Lions," she said.
Ms Karen Choy, 52, an accounts and human resources executive, echoed the same sentiments, as she missed seeing the Red Lions, the Singapore Armed Forces' parachutists, and the state flag fly-past.
And despite the heat and lack of shelter in the outdoor space, the heat was the least of their concerns. "I’m fine with the heat, because it’s not always that you get to see everyone together, especially when you are mixing around with people you don’t know," said Mdm Masni. "That's unity."