Fifty swarming quadrocopters set world record at the voestalpine Klangwolke

The highlight of this year’s voestalpine Klangwolke in Linz, Austria, was a choreographed air show with 50 small helicopters equipped with LEDs. Ars Electronica Futurelab and Ascending Technologies GmbH set a world record with this, because this was the largest swarm of these “quadrocopters” (so called because of their four rotors) outdoors at the same time.

With spectacular lighting effects and visuals, this year voestalpine Klangwolke told the story of how our world has become interconnected, from the discovery of electricity, to telecommunications, to the globally connected Internet. The highlight of the show was a magically lit swarm of computer-controlled helicopters that symbolized the virtual network and digital communities of our time, and that paraded the opportunities and possibilities associated with these impressively before our eyes.

“After discussing our idea with several experts, we realized that we were undertaking nothing less than a world record with our flying swarm”, said Horst Hoertner, Senior Director of Ars Electronica Futurelab. “Fortunately with Ascending Technologies, we found a company that was able to achieve such a task.”

50 AscTec Hummingbird quadrocopters were used for the world premiere. This aircraft has already proven its reliability in many task areas. “The AscTec Hummingbird has outstanding flight attitude and position control, which was an important prerequisite not only because of safety concerns with a performance with thousands of spectators in the middle of the city,” said Daniel Gurdan, one of the four founders of Ascending Technologies. “In addition, we were excited about the creativity and the artistic aspect of this project.” In order to allow the Ars Electronica team to create computerized choreography, the company equipped the miniature helicopters with special radio receivers and slightly modified firmware. Otherwise, the quadrocopter, with a take-off weight of only 500 grams, was simply a standard model.