Video: Cirque du Soleil dances with drones

Cirque du Soleil is known for their dramatic combination of circus arts, street entertainment and human movement. Now, throw some quadcopter magic into that mix.

While we’ve seen inanimate objects come to life onscreen in nearly ever Disney movie, these special effects are typically the culmination of long hours of work in animations labs. So, how could these effects be brought into the real world? Over the past five years, researchers at ETH Zurich have studied the possibilities of using “athletic quadcopters,” algorithmically-powered drones that can solve problems in human-like fashion.


Partnering with Verity Studios and Cirque, the team has produced a short-film entitled “SPARKED,” which features a flying dance performance of 10 drones. The collaboration made way for unique, interactive choreography where humans and drones both move in sync… and it was quite stunning.

The film is an entirely effect-free short movie starring a repairman and several lampshades that suddenly come to life. As you might have guessed it, the lampshades are actually [perhaps AVR MCU-powered?] drones in disguise.


Verity Studios, an offshoot of ETH, captured the four-minute film at the Flying Machine Arena at ETH Zurich, which researcher Markus Hehn calls “a sophisticated test bed for autonomous flight that we use for development, testing, and demonstration of our flying machines.”

The ballet-like choreography is the result of algorithms that capture data from the flying bots along with various off-the-shelf hardware components like a motion capture system (which serves as an indoor GPS), a couple of standard desktop PCs, and wireless routers.

So without further ado, watch the amazing performance below!

Oh, and speaking of Disney magic and drones, that may happen sooner than you think.

1 thought on “Video: Cirque du Soleil dances with drones

  1. Pingback: Atmel and other things turning 30 in 2014 | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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