Drone Magic with Rhizomatiks Research

Our latest project is one of our most ambitious. We have created a performance piece, utilizing 24 autonomous drones, quadcopters, flying close to and around the performers body like a flock of trained birds. They fly, swoop and hover in a series of amazing aerobatic displays as if under the performers command. It’s a timely demonstration as legislation about the use and safety of flying drones is being debated around the world.

By extending the possibility of expression through technology artists can bring their work to a point where it excels.

Daito Manabe

Rhizomatiks Research


The technology that enables such close coordination was created in collaboration with the Tokyo-Based Media Artists, Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi and their team at Rhizomatiks Research. It’s the first time that a performer has been placed at the very centre of the action. You couldn’t get any closer to a flying drone and safety was of paramount concern. The system is based on a proprietary indoor localization and control system. Rhizomatiks Research have been working with drones for 3+ years and see the collaboration with Marco Tempest as an opportunity to demonstrate the potential of their unique technology and push it to its limits.

I think the anthropomorphisation of the mechanical is a innate human trait that will play an important role in the future of technology and robotics.

Marco Tempest



Our goal is to create an intimate interaction between man and machine and explore the anthropomorphisation of technology, an illusion with far reaching consequences as we share our world with an increasing number of thinking machines and digital devices.

It was always the dream of science fiction that we would interact personally with our machines. Most of the devices we communicate with today stay safely in their boxes. We talk to Siri, Cortana and Google Now. The aerial drone is the first autonomous machine to truly invade our space. It won’t be the last. And we are going to have to learn how to share that space. That might involve giving our devices the illusion of personality hence our interest in the anthropomorphisation of the mechanical.


Drone Magic took three month to develop but the idea of creating the illusion of an anthropormorphic machine is well established in the world of magic. ‘Magicians like Jean Robert-Houdin and Nevil Maskelyne created many pseudo-automata,’ says Marco. ‘These magicians of the Victorian era created automata that could play cards and musical instruments and outthink humans. And they created them in the image of people so the audience could relate to them. Of course, back then they faked the technology too. The challenge today for magicians is to amaze audiences when the technology they have in their pockets borders on the miraculous. It’s a challenge that keeps me on my toes.’