SPARKED is a short film that combines human dramatic performance with a group of computer-controlled drones, resulting from a collaboration between ETH ZurichVerity Studios, and Cirque du Soleil. Its visual textures are real – no CGI, wires, slow-mo, or fast-forwards were used to enhance what you see. Learn more about it below.


Many of the research results from projects in the Flying Machine Arena (FMA) have been fundamental to the realization of SPARKED. This includes advancements in quadcopter control and state estimation, trajectory generation, increased autonomy, adaptation and learning, high-precision flight maneuvers, and cooperation between multiple vehicles. The seamless coordination of multiple vehicles, the design of suitable trajectories and choreographies, and the high reliability and robustness of the Flying Machine Arena infrastructure were key ingredients for the success of the film shoot. Please browse the publications on the research page for more details.


Many people from ETH Zurich, Verity Studios, and Cirque du Soleil were involved in the realization of SPARKED. The following people from the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control contributed to this project: Federico Augugliaro, Simon Berger, Dario Brescianini, David Brühlmann, Marc-Andrè Corzillius, Raffaello D’Andrea, Michael Egli, Carolina Flores, Luca Gherardi, Markus Hehn, Gregy Huber, Mark W. Mueller, Robin Ritz, Markus Waibel, Alex Wilkinson, and Evan Wilson.

Behind the Scenes

For three days, the Flying Machine Arena became a film set: Three hardwood work benches, 50 lamps, and other props occupied the space. During the shoot, the Flying Machine Arena also hosted the researchers, creative team, producers, technicians, and film crew, as well as 11 actors – one human and 10 machines.