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April 10, 2013
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Wed Apr 10, 2013, 7:16 PM


by techgnotic

Choose any media or medium and there is no question that Drones have become the white hot center of debate for a multitude of deeply consequential concerns for the entire Earth Sphere. No matter the digital end point or theatre of conversation, whether it be politics, war, privacy, pop culture, or the rise of machines – Drones or UAV's (unmanned aerial vehicles) are the current catalyst du jour in any number of flashpoint discussions. From the front page headlines of news outlets around the world, to op-ed pages debating national security vs. non-juridical “justice,” to the big budget sci-fi film “Oblivion” with a main protagonist being a lonely drone repairman toiling away on a scorched earth, there is no getting away from the conversation.

Even more interesting is the tone of inevitability of outcome. Core discussion seems to focus on a coming drone-filled sky and how we might govern our selves accordingly as this fact becomes a reality. It would seem that we have surrendered to the “law” that if something is possible in its technology, it will inexorably come into being and have to be dealt with. If we can build it, we will, and our finger will itch to find a reason for pulling the trigger. Is this the dark side of human creativity and inquisitiveness that will ultimately one day spell our doom or the first signs of a coming technological Utopia.

As always, concerned artists around the world are responding, reflecting and creating. In NYC Adam Harvey has turned the very core idea of fashion on it’s head. His art project is not about being seen and noticed but about remaining unseen as there will now be no way to be unseen in this brave new climate of surveillance.

The artists of deviantART have similarly been creating artwork of incredible beauty and message.

For a deeper examination of the intersection of future shock military terror and artistic response, istickboy takes us on a journey through an art centered perspective on the subject. Jason Boog is not only a talented writer of finely crafted sentences, but he also brings a true journalist’s skills in research, analysis and balanced presentation to the topics he covers. His future contributions to depthRADIUS will no doubt prove as edifying and thought-provoking as they will be entertaining. Welcome, Jason.


by istickboy

Near the end of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, the video game player must rescue the President while a swarm of unmanned aircraft demolish Los Angeles. Players navigate a landscape of collapsed skyscrapers and burning cars, the air thick with ash and yellow smoke. Remote controlled helicopters, airplanes and tanks ambush the player, rogue drones blasting the city to pieces.

The game concludes in 2025 with this nightmare scenario: terrorists have seized control of the entire United States drone fleet. The game has spawned deviantART collections and fan art as players create wallpaper stills, posters and scenes from the game.

Unmanned airplanes and other robotic fighting machines will obsess popular culture for years to come, and deviantART has already become a hub for drone art. Artists have tagged more than 19,000 posts with the word "drones” inventing everything from robots with laser cannons to My Little Pony drone horses to alien machinery to sleek unmanned airplanes to gorgeous robot blimps mining gas on distant stars.




According to Navy historians, drones first took flight in 1937, as the military tested remote controlled airplanes for research and missions. Just like drone bees under the command of the Queen, these early Navy drones were used for dangerous missions, target practice and other disposable tasks.

The humanitarian organization Human Rights Watch recently published a report about drone warfare around the globe. According to the study, US Department of Defense has invested about $6 billion every year into “the research and development, procurement, operations, and maintenance of unmanned systems for war.” In May 2010, U.S. drones surpassed one million flight hours and a short time later, in November 2010, achieved one million combat hours.

Winged violence from the sky is not a new artistic theme.

John James Audubon

The great 19th Century artist and naturalist dedicated much of his career to sketching birds in beautiful and violent moments. You can download free copies of his illustrated journals at Project Gutenberg. In his journal, he described the magnificent killing power of birds of prey.

He described the violence of a black-backed gull hunting in a rainstorm:

The rain is driven in sheets which seem scarcely to fall on sea or land; I can hardly call it rain, it is rather a mass of water, so thick that all objects at any distance from us are lost to sight every three or four minutes, and the waters comb up and beat about us in our rock-bound harbor as a newly caged bird does against its imprisoning walls. The Great Black-backed Gull alone is seen floating through the storm, screaming loudly and mournfully as it seeks its prey; not another bird is to be seen abroad”

In the 20th Century, aviation art captured airplanes with the same gorgeous detail that Audubon brought to real birds. The movement took flight during World War II as airplanes brought mass destruction to the prosecution of war. Artists romanticized the deadly beauty of military machinery, painting a species of bird created by mankind.

In 1963,

Roy Lichtenstein painted "Whaam" as an ironic part of this tradition.

In the five-foot tall panels, a comic book airplane blasts another fighter jet, creating a fiery inferno that engulfs half the painting with a comic explosion. The painting reproduced an image from a 1962 DC comic book, “All American Men of War.” Painting that image on an enormous canvas, Lichtenstein focused on the terrible beauty of an exploding aircraft.

An explosion of science fiction in the late 1940’s and into the 1950’s introduced rocket ships. There is a direct line to Star Trek and Star Wars through Blade Runner from Sputnik, the first unmanned satellite in space launched in 1957 by the Soviet Union. The real thing and the imagined blend together.

From Halo to Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, drones have always played...

A Role in Video Games

The Starcraft series featured horrific Zerg drones, a combination of a wasp, monster and killer alien. In the Halo franchise, insect-like Yanme'e aliens are called drones. They fly and fight in hive formations, rallying around a queen like earthbound insects.

Just like these video game creatures, our real life drones were designed by watching nature. Robotic engineers at Boston Dynamics are creating the next generation of drones that will work on the ground for the military. These creatures all mimic real animals, strange works created by engineers --unnaturalists, if you will.

Anime has also explored drone warfare, especially the mecha anime genre that “revolves around the use of piloted robotic armors in battle.”  These colorful stories show epic battles between enormous fighting machines.

Inspired by mecha anime, deviantART artist izo84 has been developing a “Drone Army” video game concept for many years, posting some of his work on the site. He also cited professional devinatART members like ukitakumuki, Avitus12, KaranaK and flaketom as inspirations.

izo84 feels conflicted about his work:

I do not feel good about designing war machines. But I think as long as what I envisioned is pure fiction, I can continue working without remorse. On the other hand, I can see how fast the real development of unmanned war machines changed, and I have concerns.”

Inspired by press accounts of drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, artist turningaway posted “War as a Video Game” on deviantART. The political painting shows what a drone attack feels like for innocent civilians on the ground and reminds us of the consequences of these unmanned attacks.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 was not created as science fiction. An Australian gaming site AusGamer interviewed Treyarch studio co-founder Mark Lamia who worked on the game. The founder explained the realistic art design behind the drone attacks: “We wanted to make sure that this is Call of Duty, it can’t be too sci-fi, it’s gotta feel like this is plausible. It’s part of the DNA of Black Ops where we set up these plausible scenarios and then we have our fiction going through it and our story... the flipside of major advances in robotics and technology is that sort of— on the flipside— is the dependencies on that and things that might be happening in cyber-warfare in the future. Things that used to be the domain of great science-fiction books is no longer, it’s reality; it’s happening; starting to play out in the headlines today, but certainly in the coming decade.”

While developing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, the video game designers and artists consulted with P.W. Singer, the war scholar who wrote the most important book about drone warfare, Wired for War.  Singer described why video game players are highly valued as drone pilots: “Having spent their youth online gaming, sipping Red Bull, and talking on their cell phones all at once, young drone pilots come to the unit with an ease at multitasking already wired into their DNA.”

Artists are training warriors.


For the Reader


Which do you think came first: the real drones or the artistic interpretations of drones?


DaVinci drew sketches of weapons and war machines as well as producing the most emotionally restrained and expressive portrait of a woman in the Mona Lisa. Is a sketch of a drone emotionally connected or is just an illustration of future shock?


There are all kinds of camera drones used by the military, by engineering companies to inspect pipelines, for example, and by film companies for all kinds of effects. What would be an art drone? Maybe a flying machine trailing colors, a guided laser obliterating ugliness or a device for laying down graffiti on inaccessible surfaces— do you have an idea for an art drone’s function or mission?


In Singer’s book, drone squadron commander Gary Fabricius talks about the lives of drone pilots: “You are going to war for twelve hours, shooting weapons at targets, directing kills on enemy combatants, and then you get in the car, drive home, and within twenty minutes you are sitting at the dinner table talking to your kids about their homework.” Is this really any different than spending a day in the studio drawing a comic or animations or illustrations of mass mayhem and destruction?


Do you think the proliferation of drones all over the world somehow brings us closer to a new world order or one world government?

Choose any media or medium and there is no question that Drones have become the white hot center of debate for a multitude of deeply consequential concerns for the entire Earth Sphere. No matter the digital end point or theatre of conversation, whether it be politics, war, privacy, pop culture, or the rise of machines – Drones or UAV's (unmanned aerial vehicles) are the current catalyst du jour in any number of flashpoint discussions. From the front page headlines of news outlets around the world, to op-ed pages debating national security vs. non-juridical “justice,” to the big budget sci-fi film “Oblivion” with a main protagonist being a lonely drone repairman toiling away on a scorched earth, there is no getting away from the conversation.

Writers: $techgnotic & *istickboy
Designers: $marioluevanos
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CrazyCanuck96 Featured By Owner May 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
There's a lot of interconnection between science, art and warfare and it would be hard to determine which came first, I think it's kind of chicken and egg question really.

I think an art drone's purpose would be similar to other machinery's purposes, to allow one to do something that they couldn't manage to do with their bare hands, whether it be reaching an impossible location, creating images to capture by photography, or even allowing one to paint a surface from a distance.

I think the drone operator is very different from yet at the same time very similar to an artist. A drone pilot, like any other soldier is subject to orders. They have a mission, given to them by someone else, to fulfill. However an artist is left to follow their creative whims. Now on the other hand, a drone pilot is a step apart from other soldiers as they will never truly understand combat, since even if the drone is shot down they'll survive, they won't experience any physical effects and they won't see the wreckage with their own eyes. Even a fighter pilot's life is on the line in the battlefield, because for him, no matter how slim it is, their is still the chance he could be killed. A pilot is also akin to an artist, in that they will likely never experience a combat situation first hand, they won't know what it's like to drive the body until there's no drive left, and then keep pushing. Even a reservist who gets deployed, will know how that feels.

I suppose a rise in deployment of drones over soldiers would eventually cause nations capable of producing them to cease warring with each other, as neither side will be able to create casualties and thus force the other into submission. However peace through fear of war doesn't exactly work well, as we've seen globally since the advent of nuclear warfare, and eventually nations would find ways around the issue of being unable to harm each other directly.
godsofchaos Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I actually gave a speech at college a few years back about the future of drone warfare. Basically Drone warfare is going to happen in US anyways because the immense public pressure since Vietnam that large loss of life is simply unacceptable. The solution is to send a toaster out to do the fight so that way the media cant use lose of life to pull out.  The media reaction to Iraq, Vietnam and other wars has forced the US military to find a solution and drones are their answer.

I think artists highly influence the future with their visions. For example watch Aliens several projects has sprung up from that movie alone. Metal storm = drone turrets, US military has been trying to achieve functional ceaseless weapons like the pulse rifles  and the drop ships could be remote controlled. People forget that scientists are people too and where artist might see something that peaks there interest from a sci fi movie and try to create a work similar to it  a scientist will go out and try to build it for real. RADAR for example birthed by a scientist trying to make death rays from war of the worlds.

Don't really get the mona lisa being a drone question.

I image a artist drone could only exist if robots ever reach sentience. If they do I would be curious to the art they would create. Until then I don't think drones can really play a role in art as you need ambition and vision to create art. Something current robots do not have.
psymonster1974 Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2013
Drones certainly excite the public interest in a way that cruder weapons, like the roadside bomb, do not, even though the latter causes many more casualties. Perhaps because of their hi tech nature or the fact there is usually associated nose cam video to view, compared to the relative invisibility of roadside bombs. Another reason may be their reach. If you look back in time to the Papal ban on crossbows in intra-European warfare, was it because being shot with a crossbow was more horrific than being shot with a longbow or slashed with a sword, or was it because their range and penetrating power threatened the safety of the armoured knights who invested a lot of time and money in their protection. Similarly drones can reach into areas and loiter for targets who would dearly like to be conducting their fight in another place, often across a national border, then retreat to a safe haven. The use of drones frustrates that strategy. Their use certainly raises questions, as all fighting should, but recent genocides have been conducted with nothing more than machetes, so should the weapon itself be feared more than any other.
leniere309 Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2013
It is said that a robot will never harm a human because of the three laws of robotics, I think it was Issac Asimov who came up with the idea for these laws, however some one needs to program them into the robots in the first place, so if a human some day decides not to insert this particular program then these laws don't apply and  this could be done without any one else knowing.

As far as radio controlled weapons are concerned take a look at the Robin Williams film 'TOYS', That idea is scary.
magu18 Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2013   Digital Artist
I think people are probably either trying to get more comfortable with the rule of the overlords because they feel powerless ("identifying with your captors"), or trying to wake others up to the presence of the rule of the overlords because they don't feel powerless. 
joeyalizio Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Okay Then. "VEHICLES."
Would Probably Be
The Word You Were Looking For.
Drones. B.S.
InvaderBloodnut Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2013  Student
 i hate drones. You would too if you had to do all the research I did on them. World issues class really opened my eyes to the horrors we have created. 
Look at the graphic novels that are created. If we can make an unmanned air craft real, what is to say the part where it turns on us is impossible?
Spanielted Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2013
Art tends to precede technology. Camera drones are used by wildlife photographers, if the technology is there and can be used by the military, then the military will use it.  What concerns me is psycho-propaganda.  News photographers in Middle Eastern war zones always manage to find a poor traumatised child with blonde curly hair.  How many blonde curly haired Arab kids do you suppose there are.  Enough of using the C.... word to justify barbarity.
DragonGirl1314 Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Pretty cool I'm not all that into technology so um yeah I like it but yeah I'm more of a fanticey person I'll like it though
Menarch Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2013
This are similar (fan over cabin)Waaaah!  to the Heinkel was build in wood! and piloting by very very young germans who lost their lives over a primitive reactor of this brave days.
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