SPARKED. A short film featuring flying machines.

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


The film shoot took place in the Flying Machine Arena at ETH Zurich, a portable space devoted to autonomous flight that consists of flying machines, a high-precision motion capture system, a wireless communication network, and custom software executing sophisticated algorithms for estimation and control.

Established at ETH Zurich in 2007, the Flying Machine Arena serves as a testbed for research in aerial vehicles. Our researchers have explored quadrocopter control and state estimation, trajectory generation, increased autonomy, adaptation and learning, high-precision flight maneuvers, aerial construction, and cooperation between multiple vehicles.

Many of these research results have been fundamental to the realization of SPARKED. 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.

SPARKED comes in the wake of several previous exhibitions of the Flying Machine Arena in action at live events such as TEDGlobal 2013, Zurich Minds, Google IO, Hannover Messe, and the FRAC Centre.


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 have 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.

Media Kit

A media kit containing high resolution images is available on request.

Behind the scenes

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

SPARKED: Behind the Technology