Franchise Freedom - a flying sculpture by Studio Drift is a performative artwork at the interface between technology, science, and art. An autonomous flying swarm of hundreds of drones, Franchise Freedom exposes the tension between individual freedom and safety in numbers. Music composed and played by Joep Beving.

The artwork translates into a poetic illustration of how we, as humans, strive to live autonomously within societies defined by rules and conventions. Although the patterns appear random, and the impression of such a swarm may remind us of freedom, the behavior of these birds is completely orchestrated and subject to many rules and survival instincts. There is a tremendous beauty in watching these sudden decisions of thousands of individuals and their reactions to one another. If every bird were to operate on its own, complete chaos would be the result. Just like birds, people find safety in a group, while at the same time they are forced to act according to a set of rules on which society functions. One who chooses complete individual freedom above these rules is forced to operate outside of society. What is the perfect balance between the two? Is freedom an illusion?

To create Franchise Freedom, Studio Drift studied the natural flight patterns of starlings and translated them into software that has been specially developed and embedded in the drones. This research started in 2007 with the launch of our work Flylight, whereby non pre-programmed flight patterns are generated by an algorithm that reacts in ways similar to starling murmuration. Together with their unique movements, light plays an equally important role in Franchise Freedom. Each drone has a light source, and its intensity and color is influenced by the distance between it and other drones, emphasizing the density of the group.

The parameters in the algorithm used in Franchise Freedom are choreographed by the artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta in order to channel the emotional impact of the performance, but they can never exactly predict or determine how the drones will behave. Their technology is based on ongoing university research on ocking behavior, as the principles of self-organization have become more and more relevant in our ever changing world.

William Myers (Historian)  “Projects such as Franchise Freedom suggest that the work of Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta is frequently an effort to understand and materialize the nature of nature. Their processes can be thought of as searches for the essential character, patterns, behavior, or connections as they are found in the natural or built environments, or even in the internal, personal and emotional realms.”

December 2017, Miami

New York Times render by Charles Castermans.

August 2018, Amsterdam - Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode

September 2018, Burning Man - Photo: Rahi Rezvani

September 2018, Burning Man - Photo: Rahi Rezvani



Franchise Freedom premiered at Faena hotel during Art Basel Miami Beach 2017.  An autonomous flying swarm of 300 Intel® Shooting Star™drones, created breathtaking aerial displays that are seemingly rehearsed, but are in fact natural cohesions of movement and flight. Each maneuver is completely integrated, and no bird works alone. When swarming they are powerful and dominate the sky.

BMW has a 50 year global track record of recognizing and enabling talent in the arts. The company helped make our visions come true and honours the full creative freedom of any artist or institution they collaborate with. When we sought a dialogue with BMW in regard to our ambitious project, the company, as long-term partner of Art Basel, excepted the challenge. For the period of over half a year, discussions ensued between us and BMW. - just as they did with artists like Jeff Koons, Olafur Eliasson, and Cao Fei beforehand. BMW is at the forefront of technological innovation, which is why “Franchise Freedom holds such a strong appeal to them. Making the impossible possible is what both BMW and artists, such as Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta, strive for. Says Hildegard Wortmann Senior Vice President Brand BMW.


After the unprecedented number of visitors to the Stedelijk Museum for the Studio Drift’s retrospective, the City of Amsterdam in collaboration with Intel, BMW, Rabobank, RAI, Stichting NDSM-werf and Studio Drift offered the public the unique opportunity to view Franchise Freedom, consisting of 300 choreographed flying Intel® Shooting Star™ drones above the river IJ in Amsterdam.

A representation of FRANCHISE FREEDOM was on display at the Stedelijk Museum as part of Studio Drift’s retrospective ‘CODED NATURE’.


Every year at Burning Man, a new society is created out of the human desire to experience ultimate freedom. In this endeavour you see rules automatically form itself, which immediately makes us question real freedom within any sort of group. The Burning Man setting provides us not only the most beautiful backdrop, but is also the perfect place to think about freedom. This artwork was a tribute to Larry Harvey, the philanthropist and visionary who built the first Burning Man and never stopped progressing it.

 Larry Harvey (Founder Burning Man) “Uniquely expressive acts get transformed and elaborated into social rites, and through participation they accrue a breadth and depth of meaning which can only be produced in a communal setting. It is the primal process by which culture is created.”

As dusk fell over the makeshift city, 600 luminous drones rose into a hypnotic display of technological choreography, accompanied by the poignant keys of Joep Beving. The drones were guided by a specially made algorithm that simultaneously allows both individual choice and movement as a group. The innovative technology made it possible to create a 3d image in the sky that could be viewed from multiple angles.

 Ralph Nauta “At Burning Man people were not waiting for the performance to begin. They were just there and got surprised by luminous movement in the sky. Nobody felt like they were looking at 600 drones, often associated in a negative way. People were watching a natural phenomenon, made possible by technology”.

 One of Studio Drift’s goals is to create real life moments in which people can truly experience wonderment together.

FRANCHISE FREEDOM is a collaboration between Lucas Oostrum and Studio Drift. 

Read more: In Miami, It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s ... a Flock of Drones?, | Studio Drift are advancing AI technology in the arts by simulating nature, | Studio Drift: dream big and think of the improbable, | A Swarm of Drones Is Performing a High-Tech Version of the Flight of the Starlings at Art Basel,