To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's launch on July 16, 1969, NASA has commissioned Studio Drift to bring their drone installation, Franchise Freedom, to the Kennedy Space Center's rocket garden. Tonight, against the backdrop of a full moon and accompanied by a Duran Duran concert, 300 luminous drones will swarm the night sky with a hypnotic choreography based on the flight patterns of starling birds.
Studio Drift first debuted the performance in 2017 at Art Basel in Miami and have since staged it at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and during Burning Man in 2018. Based on 10 years of research, co-founders Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta developed an algorithm that replicates how birds swarm and self-organize in nature. The resulting choreography is not entirely pre-determined as the drones are continuously responding to each other. Each drone has a light source, and its intensity and color is influenced by the distance between it and other drones.
In the context of the Apollo 11 anniversary, the performance offers a moment to reflect on technology, nature, our place in the universe, and our responsibilities as we continue to innovate in the 21st century. "The Apollo 11 moon landing exemplifies what technology can do for humanity," says Nauta. "Let's take this as an example of what amazing possibilities we have if we put our minds together. It is our responsibility to use technology to build a sustainable future. Whether we're exploring the moon, the sky or anywhere else it all ends up being about improving life here on earth."