Verge Aero: From America’s Got Talent to July 3rd in Benicia

Gene Pedrotti was looking for the “wow!” factor to help celebrate Pedrotti Ace Hardware’s 100th anniversary during Benicia’s Independence Day Weekend. He believes he found it – and more. 

Pedrotti says the community will be “amazed and dazzled” when 200 synchronized drones are sent skyward by Verge Aero, a Philadelphia-based company launched into national prominence last year with a stellar “America’s Got Talent Extreme” appearance. 

Even the notorious Simon Cowell was impressed by the presentation that included drones programmed to illustrate a three-stories high in the sky United States flag followed by the closing visual of the AGT logo. “I think drones are some of the most annoying things on the planet … until now,” Cowell said. “That was just sensational.” 

Pedrotti agreed, immediately tracking down Verge Aero reps after the six-year-old company was found in a Google search.  Because Verge was booked July 4 for Lake Tahoe, their team was available July 3 for a Benicia presentation. “When I first saw the America’s Got Talent Extreme show, like the viewers, I was blown away.  I was both excited … and fearful,” Pedrotti says. “There was no question that we wanted them – their show was incredible – but I was fearful that somebody else would grab them once people saw the [AGTE] episode.” 

Though three of the four-man core Verge Aero founders were college buddies, it was Nils Thorjussen who brought years of entrepreneurial and entertainment industry experience to the company. “I’d say we are 100% in line with our vision,” Thorjussen says by phone, joking that he lives “in a suitcase and on planes,” though Park City, Utah, is his base after living 30 years in Palo Alto. 

Thorjussen recalls his first conversation with Pedrotti earlier this year.

“He became aware of what we do and was very excited about the concept,” Thorjussen says. The July 3 extravaganza following Benicia’s traditional Torchlight Parade will be Verge Aero’s first public Bay Area showcase, Thorjussen says.  

“Since I’ve spent a lot of time in the Bay Area, I’m excited to do the show,” says Thorjussen, promising that Benicians “will see a really awesome show that’s designed specifically for this event. It’ll be a big celebration and exciting.”  

Thorjussen believes Verge Aero’s elaborate drone show will eventually complement fireworks displays globally. 

“I think it’s situational — certainly in California with wildfire risks with fireworks getting banned and the issue with [fireworks and] wild life,” Thorjussen says. “I do think it will be a very long time before fireworks go away completely. I think drones together with fireworks can be impactful. We’ve done some cool shows with fireworks.” 

Though Thorjussen says the “only barriers are the laws of physics and the FAA (Federal Aviation Association), there’s also the human attention span. “It keeps getting shorter and shorter,” laughs Thorjussen. “That’s good for us, since the battery life [of a drone] dictates a show between 10 and 12 minutes. The ‘sweet spot’ is eight to 10 minutes for a show. We can do a very well-crafted show in that duration that can capture people’s attention. The story and music are critically important.”

Acknowledging that some people want to “deal with the negative feedback about drones,” Thorjussen said Verge Aero’s presentations are all positive.

“We make people happy,” he says. “People love what we do. It’s really fun and exciting. It can be emotional in certain situations.”  

During COVID-19, Verge Aero was virtually shut-down, but the founders were intent on thanking first responders and came up with a dazzling sky show in Philadelphia that opened with “Thank U Heroes” spelled out.   “That was incredible,” Thorjussen says. “In the middle of the first surge of the coronavirus, people were scared and working hard. We just flew (the drones) across the street of local hospitals. As a team, we met and decided we had to do something positive. That was a really nice feeling. It turned out to be phenomenally well-received.”  

The Verge staff has grown to 14, thanks in great part to the America’s Got Talent Extreme appearance “that was pretty mind-blowing,” according to Thorjussen. “The ‘validating power’ of Simon Cowell is beyond belief. It’s like winning an Oscar. It’s incredible. People who were doubters and thought we were crazy are now believers.”