300 Drones and Duran Duran Salute the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing
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300 Drones and Duran Duran Salute the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

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By Duncan Nielsen
Last night, Studio Drift released 300 luminescent drones in an unchoreographed aerial performance above NASA’s Rocket Gardens—Duran Duran sang along.

At the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, Amsterdam–based creatives Studio Drift launched a special edition of their newish spectacle, Franchise Freedom—an aerial sculpture comprising a swarm of glowing, Intel Shooting Star drones. Implanted with finely-tuned but unpredictable algorithms, each drone acts and reacts with precision to its network, imitating a flock of starlings in flight.

As the amorphous installation set flight in front of skyward-pointing rockets and a full moon, new wave British rockers Duran Duran performed an eight-minute, orchestral rearrangement of an on-the-nose track titled "The Universe Alone," among other numbers. Band founder and keyboardist Nick Rhodes was chuffed to have been invited, having witnessed its debut in 2017 at Art Basel in nearby Miami. "I was completely enchanted by what they had created. I'd never seen technology like this be used in such an emotional way," says Rhodes. 

The drones are an intelligent network, moving and responding to each other as they fly through the sky; they independently operate without human control. 

The drones are an intelligent network, moving and responding to each other as they fly through the sky; they independently operate without human control. 

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Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta, Drift’s creative duo, have carved a niche for themselves with grandiose works of art like these. They play at the intersection of technology and natural phenomena, making use of hard data to mechanize and imitate natural movement. Says historian William Meyers, "Their processes can be thought of as searches for the essential character, patterns, behavior, or connections as they are found in the natural or built environments, or even in the internal, personal and emotional realms."

Drift artist Ralph Nauta poses in front of NASA's Rocket Gardens at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Drift artist Ralph Nauta poses in front of NASA's Rocket Gardens at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Franchise Freedom debuted at Art Basel in Miami in 2017.

Franchise Freedom debuted at Art Basel in Miami in 2017.

The moveable display has now seen Amsterdam, Miami, and Burning Man—where playa-goers were given an impromptu show— but this one was a deeper reflection of humanity for the artists at Drift. "The moon landing made us think about our lives here on earth more than life on the moon. That’s what our work Franchise Freedom is about, human behavior on earth," says Gordijn.

Related Reading: 18-Year-Old NASA Cadet Alyssa Carson Co-Designs Luggage For Outer Space