The mysterious swirls and whirls of yellow and white against a rich blue night sky is quite easy to recognize throughout your life. You’re certain to have seen it before—if not the original on display at the MoMa in New York City, then at least in one of the many replications of the most famous paintings in the world. The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh has made its home on thousands of surfaces as posters, coffee mugs, t-shirts, throw pillows, and more. However, there has been no other rendition like that of the one that recently took place in China. Van Gogh’s Starry Night literally lit up the sky in China as hundreds of drones took flight to replicate the iconic artist's most famed works.
Drone production company EFYI Group partnered with Tianjin University in China to “paint” the sky with some of Van Gogh’s most beloved and world-revered paintings in an animated light show called A Tribute to Van Gogh. Animation was a way to tell his story, and a lot of meticulous technical planning had to back up the show’s narrative. A total of 600 drones were deployed to light up the night sky, successfully setting a Guinness World Record for the longest animation performed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The dazzling, immersive show lasted 26 mins and 19 seconds, which required impressively high-precision positioning technology that coordinated and synchronized the drones. All 600 drones were of the same exact model—the Agile Bee II. Each one weighs about three pounds, travels at approximately 20 miles per hour, and can stay in the air for up to 38 minutes. In order for this display to qualify as an animation, the record’s guidelines required the drones to generate 12 images per second. Guinness World Records adjudicator Maggie Luo reviewed the entire show and announced that they were successful in meeting the requirements and actually breaking the record.
Besides setting the world record, the drone light show allowed Van Gogh’s narrative to unfold in the night sky as it recreated his most famous paintings, shining a light on his art and dazzling the entire world with a mesmerizing show. Together, the drones told the story of Van Gogh’s life and paid homage not only to The Starry Night, but also to Wheat Field with Cypresses, his Sunflowers series, and The Mulberry Tree in Autumn. They also moved through more vignettes of the artist’s famous work, including Almond Blossoms, Bedroom in Arles, and Self-portrait.
Scroll down to watch the dazzling drone show light up China's night sky.