Ladies and gentlemen, taking to the TED stage, please give a round of applause for drones! That was the scene during a February TED conference when Raffaello D’Andrea pulled off a mesmerizing 11-minute presentation that displayed “the dazzling flying machines of the future,” aka drones. Founder of automation startup Verity Studios and a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), D’Andrea has been working with mechanical machines professionally since the 90s. Recently with the rise of drones, technology had finally caught up to D’Andrea’s flight of fancy and he began to experiment with the devices, producing graceful results.
With a prime platform at TED, D’Andrea showed off the fruits of his labor with several different drone prototypes pre-programed with software built by ETH and his company, and equipped with on-board sensors that established a drone’s location in space, that carried out a stunning performance without any manual control. D’Andrea displayed several different drone prototypes, each with elaborate designs that performed stunts such as synchronized flight and high-speed flips to magical effect. For his grand finale, D’Andrea presented a “synthetic swarm” of 33 micro-quadcopters that were able to coordinate and fly themselves in gorgeous patterns that mirrored a cluster of fireflies thanks to their built-in LED lights.
D’Andrea’s stunning display of drone choreography was meant as a demonstration of the technology that Verity is currently developing with the goal of using drones for entertainment purposes. The company has already performed fanciful feats with drones by partnering with Cirque de Soleil on a four-minute film Sparked, where a fleet of quadcopters covered with lampshades hovered, flickered and even danced around a performer. D’Andrea is mum on Verity’s future endeavors, simply teasing that his team is exploring human/machine interaction. One thing is for sure – with his awe-inspiring drone performance at TED a resounding success, all eyes will be peeled to see what D’Andrea and Verity are able to do with drones next.