Will 2012 be the year of the drone?

My first post of 2012 – and, yes, my New’s Year’s Resolution is to blog regularly again – is not about a new subject. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones, are already on their way to being a standard tool of national security and increasingly of policing too. However, given decreasing price of small Micro-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (MAVs), it was also inevitable that NGOs, activist and citizen groups and even individuals, would soon start to operate them as a form of sousveillance or counter-surveillance, or simply as surveillance.

Some Occupy protestors in Europe and the USA had already made use of commercially available MAVs to broadcast footage of protest. And, the BBC reports today that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the radical direct action anti-whaling group, will this year use an Osprey drone aircraft to monitor Japanese whaling fleets operating in the southern oceans. Sea Shepherd has always been technically adventurous (and PR savvy), operating radar-invisible speedboats and even a submarine in the past.

But it all suggests that drones have made the leap from military to policing to civil use with remarkable speed, and I suggest that in 2012 we will see the proliferation of MAVs operated by non-government users. Let’s just see how fast governments now try to outlaw drones in response…

Sea Shepherd activists test their drone


Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

5 thoughts on “Will 2012 be the year of the drone?”

  1. Unfortunately, I agree. Just a couple of days ago, Turkish military killed 35 Kurdish civilians as a result of ‘inaccurate’ information supplied by the drones. After the event, everybody was discussing how to get more accurate information next time. I think the problem is not about the accuracy of the information but the drones themselves -which operate according to the logic of ‘war on terror’.


  2. Exactly, Ozgun. If you step back, it seems beyond absurd that we are even discussing tweaks to technical systems of surveillance and killing, when 35 innocent people are dead – rather than the existence and operation of the systems themselves.

  3. Thanks for your time for posting “Will 2012 be the year of the drone?

    notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society”. Imight definitely end up
    being back again for a great deal more browsing and commenting shortly.
    Thank you, Phillipp

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