Regardless of the form they take, there are a lot of legitimate questions to ask about drones: Is it ethical to use them in warfare? Is it legal for hobbyists to use them to get video footage? Are they part of an inevitable, inexorable shift to a tightly-controlled surveillance state in which people are all but robbed of their humanity and free will for fear of the totalitarian forces watching our every move? And, perhaps most critically: Can they dance?
Most of those questions are perhaps best left to our philosophers, lawyers, and futurists, but the last one has been answered by the experts at Cirque du Soleil, who seem pleased to reveal—in a four-minute collaboration between the performance company, Swiss engineering university ETH Zurich, and filmmakers Verity Studios shared on YouTube this week—that the answer is a resounding "Yes."
Opening with Arthur C. Clarke’s maxim that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," the video—entitled "Sparked"—is a choreographed dance to a Danny Elfman composition, in which a Gepetto-style tinkerer in a workshop full of lamps sees his creations come to life. The creations that spark to action, of course, are Quadcopter drones wearing lampshades, and what follows is a fascinating, wordless performance with elements of Disney’s Fantasia to it—but with live-action, practical effects. Once upon a time, it took Mickey Mouse in a wizard’s hat to get the inanimate objects up and dancing—now, though, all of that power is in the hands of anyone with a thousand bucks or so for a quadcopter. The theory may go that magic is just science that we don’t understand yet, but we understand how drones work, and there’s still plenty of magic to "Spark."