Quadrocopter swarm performs amazing light show [video]

50 quadrocopters perform light show in Austria

When I think of quadrocopters — the miniature flying drones that can be programmed to fly in choreographed formations — the first thing that comes to mind is a nightmarish future where people are bombarded by these little robots, picked up off the ground, and flown to some secret CIA prison. But apparently not everyone is as paranoid and crazy as I am.

Like the clever folks at Austria’s Ars Electronica Futurelab and German firm Ascending Technologies GmbH, who recently used a swarm of 50 quadrocopters to create what can only be called 21st century performance art. Outfitted with programmable LED lights, the swarm of Hummingbird quadrocopters flickered and danced in the night sky on September 1, above Linz, Austria, for the 34th annual Klangwolke (Cloud of Sound) multi-media music festival, to create 2D and 3D images in the sky.

Dubbed “The Cloud in the Web,” the eight-part performance tells the story of “the networking of our world,” according to the press release (pdf). “Episode 0” starts with the story of waterways like the Danube river (along which the performance took place), which first connected humanity with one another. From there, the story travels through the first harnessing of electricity, to the birth of telecommunication and radio, to the rise of the robots, and finally to the age of the Internet.

The performance set a world record for the number of synced quadrocopters flying in unison. But the team says that it’s not finished there. Better 2D and 3D images are in the works, as is long-range flight. But what the team really wants to do is “crank up the numbers” — say, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 quadrocopters in the sky at once.

Now, if that doesn’t sound like something out of a nightmarish dystopia, I don’t know what does.

Watch a video of “The Cloud of Sound” below: