Ars Electronica and Intel present: “One rarely experiences moments in which it becomes crystal clear how important and rewarding it can be to defy all the naysayers, to steadfastly pursue a vision and to work unwaveringly for years to bring it to fruition.” That’s how Horst Hörtner, director of the Ars Electronica Futurelab, summarized what was going through his head when 100 drones took off in pursuit of a world record in November 2015. In Deep Space 8K he personally presents the DRONE 100 project.
The Spaxels: From Pilot Project in Linz to World Record with Intel
Since the summer of 2012, an Ars Electronica Futurelab crew has been working on how to put aloft a large group of LED-studded quadcopters that autonomously execute preprogrammed formations. All of the many experts who were initially invited to collaborate on this project took a pass: an undertaking of these dimensions—and one to be implemented outdoors, no less—was said to be impossible to pull off in the allotted timeframe. Nevertheless, the Futurelab staffers were bound and determined, and their perseverance paid off. In September 2012 at the Linzer Klangwolke, a multimedia extravaganza spanning the Danube, a group of 50 illuminated drones ascended and formed a huge eye in the night sky. This one-of-a-kind performance created a worldwide sensation, and it wasn’t long before the first prominent client came calling. In conjunction with the promotional campaign preceding the premiere of “Star Trek – Into Darkness,” Paramount booked the Linz-based drone swarm to perform its aerial artistry immediately adjacent to London’s high-profile landmark, the Tower Bridge. By this point at the very latest, the Spaxels Project had taken off. There followed airborne performances in Bergen, Norway (International Bergen Festival, 2013), Ljubljana, Slovenia (Ljubljana Festival, 2013), Brisbane, Australia (QUT Robotronica Event 2013), Umea, Sweden (official opening celebration of the 2014 European Capital of Culture), Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (official opening celebration of the 2014 Islamic Capital of Culture), Hannover (official celebration of the 25th anniversary of German unification, 2014), Dubai (The UAE’s National Day festivities in 2014) and Linz (2015 Eurovision Song Contest). These commercial appearances made it possible to finance the ongoing enhancement and tweaking of the spaxels. Then, in autumn 2014, the Ars Electronica Futurelab received mail from Intel for something they called Drone 100. And the rest is history.