Articles | Volume 71, issue 2
Geogr. Helv., 71, 137–146, 2016

Special issue: Power and space in the drone age

Geogr. Helv., 71, 137–146, 2016

Standard article 20 Jun 2016

Standard article | 20 Jun 2016

Assemblage of the vertical: commercial drones and algorithmic life

Jeremy W. Crampton Jeremy W. Crampton
  • Department of Geography, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506, USA

Abstract. This paper takes up the increasingly popular topic of drones – including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), and a vast panoply of commercial drones and copters – to argue that our analysis should lie not so much on drones as objects, but as assemblages of the vertical. Drones, I argue, constitute a socio-technical assemblage of the sky and vertical space, which means that our focus should be not (only) on their technological development and capacities but also on their effects and affects. The latter of these include increasing algorithmic data collection and circulation that follow anticipatory logics.

Short summary
This paper discusses the development of the market for small commercial drones in the USA. I suggest the market does not just develop by itself, but through a whole series of struggles by various people and institutions. Drones are also part of an increasing dependence by society on machine decision-making, which is replacing human decision-making. I was interested in examining these developments in the context of small drones and the possibility of new geographies of the sky.