Quadcopter powered light painting

September 29, 2013

Back in June I had the first inkling of an idea that light painting (aka light writing) with a quadcopter might give some cool results. It turns out I was right. It’s a lot of fun and look pretty cool I think.

Light painting is a simple but potentially quite beautiful technique. Take one or more light sources (a flashlight or a firework say) and a still camera on a tripod. Wait until it’s dark and then move the light around in front of the camera while taking a long exposure. The images capture the trails of the light as it moves through space. Picasso tried it as have many other talented people.

I’ve always wanted to play with light writing and recently have become fascinated by remote control quadcopters. Inspired by the wonderful Eyeo conference (and specifically Kyle McDonald who urged us to share ideas early) I shared the kernel of the idea as it formed:

Tweet from pdinnen


Over the following months I hacked around with the idea and combined forces with Brent Marshall and Dré Labre (and bought a quadcopter, a key part of the plan I was missing). Together we developed project WISP (Weird Illuminated Sky Paintings).

We are working on sharing the tools and techniques we developed in an open source fashion, so more about the build process will be forthcoming. The results though were really exciting and have encouraged us to develop the idea further, working towards developing a series of ‘brushes’ that can be swapped in to use different lighting effects.

For now, here is our initial output. If you have ideas about how we can expand or apply these ideas please get in touch. If anyone would like to fund a trip to Iceland to do this in some of that country’s majestic landscapes that would be excellent.

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