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Hundreds of drones took Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ to the skies — and set a Guinness World Record

The instantly recognizable work of art has been plastered on posters, coffee mugs and even a bike path. It seemed like the painting had made it everywhere.

That is, until 600 drones mapped it onto the night sky in northern China’s Tianjin Municipality, setting a Guinness World Record in the process.

EFYI Group, a drone production company, along with Tianjin University in China, set the record for the longest animation performed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with a time of 26 minutes and 19 seconds, according to the Guinness website.

“Animation is a way to tell a story, to tell something that you want to tell,” Zhang Siqi, chief operating officer of EFYI Group told Guinness.

The drones came together to tell the story of Van Gogh’s life

“The Starry Night” wasn’t the only Vincent Van Gogh painting to be recreated in the sky.

The drone performance told the story of the artist’s life, moving through vignettes of his most famous work, including “Wheat Field with Cypresses,” “The Mulberry Tree in Autumn” and the series “Sunflowers.”

Zhang told Guinness that drone animations, in particular, are tricky to execute.

“For the previous drone demonstrations, it was a picture flying to another picture,” she said. “Making a full-length animation is a difficult challenge for the whole team, both technically and creatively.”

Technological coordination was a priority

Backing the show’s narrative was meticulous technical planning.

To qualify as an animation, the record’s guidelines require 12 images per second on the part of the drones.

To fashion the drones into these images, EFYI Group used high-precision positioning technology, along with synchronization technology to achieve “coordinated action,” Zhao Shilei, product director at EFYI Group, told Guinness.

All 600 drones were of the same model, the Agile Bee II, which weighs approximately three pounds and flies at around 20 miles per hour.

Guinness has announced other drone-related records recently, including the largest drone synthesizer in 2020 and the most UAVs airborne simultaneously from a single computer, indoors, in 2019.
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