Drones of the desert : an ancient Aboriginal story comes to life at Uluru inselberg, Australia

Drones of the desert : an ancient Aboriginal story comes to life at Uluru inselberg, Australia

May 24, 2023

A scene from Wintjiri Wiru, a drone, sound and light show at Uluru in the Northern Territory, Australia. 
Witness the ancient Mala story re-told like never before with ground-breaking technology. Choreographed drones, lasers, and projections will take flight, lighting up the night sky in a modern, artistic expression of an ancient, Anangu story. 


Wintjiri Wiru

In the local Anangu language, Wintjiri Wiru, means “beautiful view over the horizon”.

It is the name of the world’s largest permanent drone show, which had its global launch on Wednesday 10th of may after five years and a $10m investment.

More than 1,100 color lit drones filled the sky above Uluru with three-dimensional artwork telling the Mala ancestral story – just one chapter of stories sacred to the Anangu.

The visuals are backed by narration in the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara languages (aboriginal language), with English translation, and a soundtrack of traditional music.

As the story begins, 400 drones launch from a platform hidden behind mulga shrub. They move in programmed synchronicity, depicting an evil spirit disguised as trees, rocks and birds sent to destroy the Mala.


A scene from Wintjiri Wiru depicting an evil spirit shape-shifting into Kurpany, the devil dog.

The spirit takes its final form as Kurpany, a devil dog, made of 800 drones looming 200 metres above the audience.

Developed by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia in partnership with the Anangu community, visitors view the show on a floating platform betweenUluru and Kata Tjuta, backlit by the artwork of local Anangu artist Christine Brumby. It will run every night until February 2024

Count $385/ person for this adventure. When you start your experience deep in the desert 3h before sunset to find the open theater atop a dune where you will have a dinner 1.5h before sunset. Then show starts and choreographed drones, lasers, and projections will take flight, lighting up the night sky. 

Visitors watch Wintjiri Wiru.
For Denise, another Anangu woman, tjukurpa comes from hearing and seeing.

“When I was young, I would hear stories from my grandmother, every night and early morning,” she says.

“She would draw a picture in the ground, and I could see what she was telling me. While she did that, she would sing a song. Then rug weaving, always with a picture, always singing. Wax oil on a sheet. Wooden carvings with designs. All along, she would sing the same song, and I would listen.

“She passed away and it is my turn to draw the picture, tell the same story, sing the same song.

“When we see the colours, pictures, patterns and hear the voices of our grandparents in the light show, we are carrying their voices with us.”

‘The voice and sound of the desert’

The audience do not know that the lights are drones and where the sound come from, this creates a real mystery for the audience, makes the atmosphere more magic.

“This is the voice and sound of the desert,” Bruce Ramus says. “When you watch the show you feel it. You don’t think about drones or lasers or speakers.”

Ramus is a Canadian light artist who programmed and produced Wintjiri Wiru.
Rhoda Roberts, a Widjabul woman and acclaimed artistic director, helped navigate the consultation between the Anangu and Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia.

“I sit here and think of what a historic moment this is – the work conducted by our people, the generosity and knowledge they can give,” Roberts says. 

“It fills my heart because we remember the grandparents who fought to ensure we inherited the birthright of caring after the land and sky, who knew stories had to be passed on. 

“This assures we won’t be the generation who loses the eons of story.” 
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