W9 Drones

Drones are unmanned, aerial vehicles that are playing an increasingly important role in digital cities, and other spaces globally. Floreano and Wood believe drones could majorly impact civilian tasks, such as “transportation, communication, agriculture, disaster mitigation and environment preservation.” (Floreano and Wood, 2015: 460). Jensen echoes this, stating drones could affect power and mobility. (Jensen, 2016:.73). An example is seen across Africa, where drones are being used to deliver medical aid and supplies, as well as allowing access where roads cannot. (Flood, 2016). Here robotics company, Zipline have designed a drone to deliver parachutes of medical essentials without having to land (Flood, 2016), which has the potential to save lives. This is not the first time drones have been used like this. They were also utilised in search and rescue missions after Nepal’s 2015 earthquake (Sharma, 2016). Mbwana Alliy, founder of Savannah Fund, believes drones bring “exciting potential to marry the real and vast physical challenges of Africa with the digital revolution.” (Alliy in Flood, 2016).
However, it is simplistic to view drones in a purely utopian sense. The ethical issues do not disappear because we domesticate their use in spaces that are not war-torn. (Jensen, 2016: 68).
According to Bergen and Rothenberg, drones “involve new ways of projecting lethal force that challenge accepted rules, norms and moral understandings.”(Bergen and Rothenberg, 2014: 1). Drones are not always carrying aid. The use of drones as weapons in warzones, with people “killing at a distance” and attacking others while being in a different physical space, is very concerning. (Jenson, 2016: 68). Where drones have been used in warzones, to suddenly change their purpose and start using them for aid could alarm citizens, fearing it is another attack.
There are also concerns regarding surveillance, with Jensen describing drone cities are being difficult to regulate and drones themselves as having potential to “end public space as we know it” (Jensen, 2016: 67-73), and issues of airspace ownership. (Jain, 2015 in Jensen, 2016: 70).

Flood, Z. 2016. From killing machines to agents of hope: the future of drones in Africa. 27 July 2016. The Guardian. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/27/africas-drone-rwanda-zipline-kenya-kruger (Accessed 06/04/17).

Floreano, D. and Wood, R.J., 2015. Science, technology and the future of small autonomous drones. Nature. 521(7553). Pp.460-466.

Jensen, O., B. 2016. Drone city – power, design and aerial mobility in the age of “smart cities.” Geographica Helvetica. 71(67-75). Pp.67-73.

Sharma, G. 2016. Armed with drones, aid workers seek faster response to earthquakes. 15 May 2016. Reuters. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-humanitarian-summit-nepal-drones-idUSKCN0Y7003 (Accessed 06/04/17).

Bergen, P., & Rothenberg, D. (2014). Introduction. Drone Wars: Transforming Conflict, Law and Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp.1.

2 thoughts on “W9 Drones

  1. Countries and cities that have been affected by war often take years to rebuild infrastructures, roads and re-establish a system that can be effective to their citizens. Rwanda who has suffered the genocides for years. It is also one those countries where the usage of drones for medical supply deliveries has been very effective. They uses batteries powered drones called the Zip to delivery emergency medical products and blood in areas that is inaccessible via roads (Nambiar, 2017). However, as stated by Jensen, drones still present ethical issues which cannot just disappear because their use has shifted from being war weapons to being domesticated (2016, pg 68). In places where drones were previously used for war, utilising the same engine to carry aids can be an issue on how the citizen will respond to it.
    Jensen, O., B. 2016. Drone city – power, design and aerial mobility in the age of “smart cities.” Geographica Helvetica. 71(67-75). Pp.67-73.
    Nambiar, R. (2017). How Rwanda is using drones to deliver medical aid. [online] CNBC. Available at: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/05/27/how-rwanda-is-using-drones-to-save-millions-of-lives.html [Accessed 5 May 2017].

  2. Hicks-Logan mentions the use of drone technology to enhance mobility in hard to reach areas both as an extension of aid delivery and “as weapons in warzones” (Hicks-Logan, 2017).

    While many might associate the use of drones in this way, when discussing other uses for drone technology Jensen states that “we want to focus on drone technology as a new dimension of real-time surveillance information in the contemporary city” (Jensen, 2016. PG 68). Jensen discusses the rebranding of drone technology and its perceived impression by the general public. Changing this impression could be difficult to achieve as Jensen associates the use of drones with Michael Foucault description of the use of western governmental technology and its ‘boomerang’ effect.

    There are many benefits to the use of drone technology but the general publics mistrust on how it is used could be wrapped it in its history. Changing the public perception may take sometime to achieve but allowing the general public to use drone for domestic purposes such as filming might be a better solution for accepting this technology.


    Jensen, O. (2016). Drone city – power, design and aerial mobility in the age of “smart cities”. Geographica Helvetica, 71(2), pp.67-75.

    Hicks-Logan, G. (2017). W9 Drones. [online] Digital Cities. Available at: http://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/digitalcities/2017/04/06/w8-drones/ [Accessed 7 May 2017].

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