Articles | Volume 71, issue 3
Geogr. Helv., 71, 167–172, 2016

Special issue: Power and space in the drone age

Geogr. Helv., 71, 167–172, 2016

Interface 15 Jul 2016

Interface | 15 Jul 2016

Domestic drones: the politics of verticality and the surveillance industrial complex

Ciara Bracken-Roche Ciara Bracken-Roche
  • Department of Sociology, Queen's University, Kingston ON, M6P 2H2, Canada

Abstract. Drones are being introduced as innovative and cost-effective technologies for civil, commercial, and recreational purposes in the domestic realm. While the presence of these technologies is increasing, regulations are being introduced in order to ensure their safe and responsible use. As drones are adopted for a number of purposes, the “de facto practices settle around it, rendering change much more difficult” (Gersher, 2014), and so the policy debates must consider all contingencies and unintended consequences of their use. This paper discusses the background of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), their role as surveillance technologies, and how they reinforce asymmetries in power and visibility that contribute to a politics of verticality, ultimately arguing that surveillance concerns must become part of the discussion at the policy and regulatory level in order to mitigate any harms. Where drones are already used for care and control as technologies of surveillance, privileged use of drones by public and police agencies could further reinforce a politics of verticality (Weizman, 2002), resulting in specific types of space, risk, and population management.