Ars Electronica Quadcopter Swarm over Umea

Ars Electronica Quadcopter Swarm over Umea

The big celebration launching the northern Swedish city of Umea's term as European Capital of Culture got underway at 5 PM on Saturday, February 1. Along for the ride were 30 Ars Electronica Futurelab quadcopters, which took to the sky for a five-minute performance during which they formed the Umea logo and the configuration of stars on the EU flag. This precisely choreographed flight under frigid conditions presented quite a challenge. "Sending a quadcopter swarm aloft in such low temperatures was a pretty tricky assignment, especially with respect to the performance of the batteries," noted Chris Bruckmayr, Spaxels Business Manager at the Ars Electronica Futurelab. "Our flight during this show was the first we've ever attempted under such conditions." The quadcopters were part of the show produced by phase7 performing.arts. It was commissioned by Umea 2014 European Capital of Culture.

Umea 2014

Umea and Riga, Latvia are Europe's 2014 Capitals of Culture. The official opening event in the northern Swedish city of Umea kicked off on Saturday, February 1 at 5 PM. The thick sheet of ice covering the Ume älv river provided a stylish alfresco stage for a breathtaking multimedia performance featuring light, music and dance amidst a mystical winter landscape. Providing the dramaturgical framework were the eight seasons of the Sami, an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia's Kola Peninsula.

Spaxels in Linz, London, Bergen, Ljubljana, Brisbane and Umea

The Ars Electronica Futurelab's quadcopter swarm was the main attraction at the 2012 voestalpine Klangwolke. An audience of over 90,000 was on hand to witness a world record: the first outdoor formation flight of 49 quadcopters. For the premiere of the film "Star Trek: Into Darkness" in March 2013, the Ars Electronica quadcopters thrilled onlookers in London where 30 computer-controlled drones formed the legendary Starfleet logo in the night sky above the Thames. Shortly thereafter, these so-called spaxels starred in the spectacular opening show at the Bergen International Festival staged jointly by the Ars Electronica Futurelab and phase7. In June 2013, the swarm visualized the opening concert at the Ljubljana Festival with an impressive aerial ascent from Ljubljana Castle. During the August 2013 celebration marking the opening of Queensland University's new campus in Brisbane, the quadcopter formation made its first appearance in the Southern Hemisphere. And the "We Are Here" extravaganza that opened the most recent Ars Electronica Festival in September 2013 was also the public debut of the whirlybirds' new and considerably brighter LED system.

ARS ELECTRONICA Futurelab in Linz, Austria




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by Barry Kostrinsky