Articles | Volume 71, issue 2
Geogr. Helv., 71, 99–108, 2016

Special issue: Power and space in the drone age

Geogr. Helv., 71, 99–108, 2016

Standard article 27 May 2016

Standard article | 27 May 2016

Watching the watchmen: resisting drones and the "protester panopticon"

Neil J. Waghorn Neil J. Waghorn
  • Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, SY23 3BD, UK

Abstract. The skies as sites of protest are opening up. Protester-operated drones are beginning to appear in the skies above protests: watching the watchmen, installing an additional layer of surveillance, increasing accountability and self-discipline amongst the police. In this way protester drones could be seen as establishing a "protester panopticon", with the police as subjects. This article explores the potential panoptic effect of the gaze upon the police, drawing on sousveillance theory, before using counter-surveillance as a way to explore potential options for police resistance to the gaze of the protester drone. These resistive efforts are broken down into four categories, legislation and regulation, obscuring the gaze, electronic countermeasures and kinetic and physical force.

Short summary
Protester operated drones are beginning to appear in the skies above protests, offering protesters new ways to watch the police. Previous work on resisting surveillance has focused upon resisting surveillance by state authorities, such as the police. This article, however, reverses this arrangement and explores the ways in which the police can attempt to resist surveillance by protesters. It explores legislation, physical and electronic efforts to minimise the effects of the gaze of the drone.