New Yorkers were treated to a drone light show on October 21, 2023 (Credit: Drift/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Thousands of New York residents witnessed a mesmerizing kinetic light show on October 21, 2023. The performance, titled "Franchise Freedom," featured 1,000 illuminated drones. The autonomous machines formed synchronous patterns in the sky above the Central Park Lake in three separate, 10-minute showings. The drone "dance" was synched to music by Dutch composer and pianist Joep Beving.

"Franchise Freedom" was the brainchild of Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta. The Dutch artists fitted the drones with custom software programmed to mimic the flight behavior of starlings. Called murmurations, it involves large flocks of the songbirds twisting, turning, and swirling across the sky in beautiful shape-shifting clouds.

The show has previously been performed at NASA and a few other places. However, the New York spectacle was much larger in scale than past presentations. They typically involved around 300 drones.

"Franchise Freedom" was Central Park's largest public artwork project since "The Gates" in 2005. This temporary installation featured 7,503 "gates" holding saffron-colored fabric. They lined 23 miles (37 km) of the iconic park's pathways.