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Elevation – a documentary examining profound ways drones are changing our world

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Big topics covered in the doco

Perspective

One major question the film’s producers investigate is how drones will change how we relate to others and space. A UAV allows people to experience flight while having their feet planted firmly on the ground and can thus open our minds to new possibilities or destinations. Drones make it easier for us to get to places that were previously extremely difficult to access such as looking at the inside of active volcano craters or inside the cavernous tops of underground caves.

Travel

We have written articles about how drone taxis could change the way we travel. Four months ago we posted about how Airbus’s drone taxi had completed its first flight. It will take extensive planning and regulation to start making flying taxis a reality but if it comes to pass, cities need not be designed around roads. For thousands of years, humans have travelled along roads or tracks, either on horseback, train or in motorized vehicles. Once you are freed from the road, the possibilities for design are far greater. Perhaps one day we’ll stop entering our houses from ground-level and instead access our houses from the rooftop – using autonomous taxi drones to fly us from place to place.

Architecture

Architects interviewed in the documentary talk about how radically drones may change the way buildings are designed. People live their lives thinking about the world from ground-level because that is how we see: from inside our bodies on footpaths or roads. Once someone has access to a drone their perspective changes; they start to think of how things will look from above. As a result of this, architects are beginning to put more emphasis on how buildings and cities are constructed with aerial aesthetics in mind.

Construction

The film shows footage of construction drones which are able to cooperate together using cables to construct a simple bridge that people were able to walk across. They also show drones carrying construction bricks and painting the side of a building. Drones enable designers to come up with more audacious project. A UAV equipped with a spray can cheaply and easily spray an intricate design on the side of a massive building; a task that would formerly be complicated and expensive.

Clip of construction drones making a bridge.

Drone taxis could be a preferred method of transport in the future. Credit: Elevate

The dark side of drones

Elevation touches on some of the negative implications of drones, imagining a future where people could easily be constantly monitored by groups of drones equipped with facial recognition software. Several experts also spoke of how, as more people get personal drones, tragedy is likely to strike. It seems almost certain that eventually one will crash into a passenger plane, resulting in deaths. Similarly, terrorists could easily use drones to carry out an attack on the public and it is somewhat of a miracle that they haven’t already. The viewer watches a short clip of a drone firing bullets and remembers, these robots were originally intended weapons of war.

One of the experts interviewed in the film is Marina Otero Verzier, head of research and development at Het Nieuwe Instituut in the Netherlands. She makes an excellent point about the concept that the spread of drones is an inevitability:

“I think we should question whether we want drones to be part of the civilian space of our cities. The fact that it is available as a technology doesn’t mean that we want it to be part of our lives. Our idea about public space has already changed. We are already used to the idea that some sort of machine gaze is looking at us. Drones will probably be a step further.”

There are estimated to be more than 1.1 million consumer drones in the United States. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has predicted that by 2021 there will be 6.1 million total drones in US skies. The massive year-on-year growth of the consumer drone market, currently thought to be worth ($ figure per year), is good reason to believe that drone technology is here to stay.

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