• Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode

  • Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode

  • Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode

Franchise Freedom



Drone technology by Intel

Music composed and performed by Joep Beving (NASA edition: music by Duran Duran)

Represented by Pace Gallery and Therme Art Program

Miami edition made possible by BMW

Amsterdam edition made possible by BMW, Rabobank, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Gemeente Amsterdam, RAI, Stichting NDSM-werf

Burning Man Festival edition

NASA edition made possible by Intel, Pace Gallery, Therme Art Program


Franchise Freedom is a performative art installation by DRIFT exploring the relationship between man, nature and technology. An autonomously flying swarm of hundreds of drones questions the human concept of freedom and social construct. It invites you to view a poetic side of technical innovation and connect back with nature. Based on a biological algorithm from over 10 years of research into starlings’ flight behaviour, the artwork stretches boundaries between nature and technology and generates an impactful social connection.

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

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 behaviour 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?

Franchise Freedom invites you to look at nature’s patterns and survival mechanisms and learn from these. Life has been on earth for over 3 billion years and has its operating instructions on what works and what is appropriate here. Why don’t we look at nature’s patterns more often and find our solutions there. 

The parameters in the algorithm used in Franchise Freedom are choreographed by Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta, founders of DRIFT, 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 flocking behaviour, as the principles of self-organisation are becoming more and more relevant in our ever-changing world.

Franchise Freedom premiered at Art Basel Miami 2017, followed by a performance in Amsterdam above the IJ in August 2018, another during the Burning Man Festival in September 2018 and as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing at NASA grounds. In the years since, the performance has been held again at Art Basel Miami, Burning Man and other venues around the world, with many more to follow.


Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode
Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode
Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode

Video courtesy of DRIFT