Articles | Volume 72, issue 2
Geogr. Helv., 72, 231–239, 2017

Special issue: Power and space in the drone age

Geogr. Helv., 72, 231–239, 2017

Standard article 06 Jun 2017

Standard article | 06 Jun 2017

Big data from the sky: popular perceptions of private drones in Switzerland

Francisco Klauser and Silvana Pedrozo Francisco Klauser and Silvana Pedrozo
  • Institut de Géographie, Université de Neuchâtel, Espace Louis Agassiz 1, 2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Abstract. Camera-fitted drones are now easily affordable for the public. The resulting extension of the vertical gaze raises a series of critical questions, ranging from the changing regimes of visibility and control that characterise today's world of big data from the sky to the novel opportunities, risks, and power dynamics hence implied. The paper addresses these issues empirically, focussing on the popular perception of commercial and hobby drones in Switzerland. This provides a deeper understanding of the driving forces and obstacles that shape current drone developments and highlights that the societal diffusion of private drones today transforms the very ways in which the aerial realm is lived and perceived, as a highly contested space of risks, opportunities, and power. This discussion is rooted in a research approach that places questions of power and (air-)space at the centre when approaching the drone problematic.

Short summary
Drawing upon a quantitative opinion survey conducted in the Swiss Canton of Neuchâtel in 2015, the paper provides insight into how far the current proliferation of private drones truly reaches. The paper also studies how the usage and societal diffusion of civil drones is perceived and lived by the population at large. Such a perspective is needed to understand the driving forces that shape current drone developments, and to explore the wider societal implications of the technology.