3,000 Drones Mimic Bird Murmurations in Record-Breaking Art Installation

DRIFT - Desert Swarm for Noor Riyadh

Photo: Ahmed Hasan, courtesy of Noor Riyadh and Havas

During the first half of December 2023, six Guinness World Records were broken during the critically acclaimed light festival Noor Riyadh. Among the impressive performances was Desert Storm by Dutch design studio DRIFT. In its largest performance ever, the studio used 3,000 drones to mimic the movements of a bird swarm.

This poetic blend of art and technology was inspired by starling murmurations. In fact, it took 10 years of research into these avian formations for a complex algorithm to be developed in a way that would capture the choreography perfectly. The end result was an impressive installation that created the illusion of a flock of birds dancing across the city sky.

The performance broke two Guinness World Records. One individually as the largest drone bird swarm ever flown, and the other as part of Noor Riyadh. The festival launched the most drones in a week, with 21,000 used in the more than 120 light artworks that were created for the event.

Noor Riyadh is part of a 10-year project to transform the Saudi Arabian capital into a creative canvas that matches the energy of its young and rapidly growing population. In addition to DRIFT, acclaimed artists such as Janet Echelman, Miguel Chevalier, and Vhils also created installations for the event. While the installations have finished, an exhibition, Refracted Identities, Shared Futures, and a series of workshops and public talks continue until March 2, 2024. The show, which features artworks from over 30 artists, delves deeper into themes of mythology, astrophysics, and the multifaceted properties of light.

As part of Noor Riyadh, DRIFT created a world-record-breaking drone installation that mimics the movement of birds.

DRIFT: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by DRIFT.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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