Bot Battle in the Sky? A Saboteur Unleashed Enemy Drones to Attack Studio Drift’s Latest Aerial Drone Ballet in Hamburg

The artists had to shut the performance down early.

Studio Drift's Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn. Courtesy Andrew Goldstein

The Dutch design duo Studio Drift has cut short its latest performance, a four-day illuminated drone dance over the skies of Hamburg, after a saboteur unleashed an “attack” from enemy drones that caused several aerial collisions.

The performance, titled Breaking Waves, was set to appear in front of the facade of Hamburg’s glitzy Herzog and de Meuron-designed Elbphilharmonie concert hall, while a live performance of Thomas Adès’s piano concerto played.

On Instagram, Studio Drift called the event an “aggressive disruption [that resulted in] several collisions and as a result, numerous drones have crashed.”


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The artists called off the remaining days of the performance while German aviation security reportedly looks into the attack. “[T]here have never been disruptions to air traffic of this intensity and aggressiveness in Germany,” Studio Drift said in the post. “This requires a reassessment of the security situation.”

“Since it cannot be ruled out that such crimes will be committed again by anonymous drone pilots in the following days, it is irresponsible to continue Breaking Waves in order to protect viewers and employees.”

The performance was originally commissioned by the Hamburg International Music Festival at a price tag of €800,000, according to German media. 

Founded in 2007 by Design Academy Eindhoven graduates Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn, Studio Drift are leaders in architectural design lighting and installations that have graced some of the world’s most significant buildings and museums, including recent indoor drone performances at TBA21’s Venice Ocean Space and the Church of San Lorenzo. 

“The [Breaking Waves] work is a conversation between the building and the moving light drones,” Gordijn said in a statement. “It is an attempt to build a moment of connection between humans, machine, and the environment.”

“What we find very interesting in our studio is to bring people and places together in the same frequency,” she continued. “So we created a moment where a connection can be established and everyone can have a shared experience.”

In the Instagram post addressing the aerial attack, Studio Drift added: “Those responsible at the Elbphilharmonie and the artists from Drift are sad and frustrated that they have to cancel the repetitions of the light installation, which thrilled thousands of viewers at the premiere.”

The cancelled Hamburg performance, however, will not entirely rob those interested in seeing the collective’s works. A major Studio Drift exhibition is currently on display at the Museum for Applied Arts in Hamburg, which opened in January and runs through May 8. 

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