Week 7: Remote Sensing

The topic that was most appealing to me during this past week was the topic of unmanned aerial vehicles and the aerial gaze that it produces. It raises a lot of questions regarding the benefits and costs of such remote sensing technology. In lecture, we saw the history of remote sensing from the early aerial photographs taken by Nadar to satellites in space, which I feel like has an “inverse” panoptic gaze on us. In today’s world, unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, have received the most media attention and national discussion. Drones were originally utilize by the military for reconnaissance missions, but it became a killing machine once missiles were outfitted on the drones. The use of drones to save American lives, but kill enemies without any warning became controversial and brought more attention to it in the past decade. Today, drones are used for many purposes such as the inspection of infrastructures, videography, photography, geological surveys, etc. Drone technology reminds me of Joel Slayton’s work called Telepresent Surveillance. Slayton’s project utilized autonomous robot surveillance probes and the Internet. The three robots that he constructed interacted with each other and other people in the room and broadcast video from their point of view (Wilson 343). There are developers who are working to make autonomous drones that does not need to be controlled by a human operator. These drones can work similar to Slayton’s robots by interacting with their surroundings and taking a picture or video of whatever is programmed for the drone to capture.

Currently, drones is pictured in a negative perspective since it is primarily associated with surveillance. The ability for small drones to fly anywhere they want horrifies the public because of how it can be used to invade a person’s privacy. Similar to the how a gaze is internalized in a person’s mind through a panopticon, drones have that effect on people because they don’t know if the drone has a camera and if it does, is there someone on the other side gazing at them. However, drones not only highlights the idea of surveillance, but also the role of this kind of technology and the inevitable incorporation of artificial intelligence. As computers are exponentially advancing, it is obvious that society is creating artificial intelligence that can provide assistance to human beings. It may sound like science fiction, but artificial intelligence and aerial gaze can be fused together to create drones that doesn’t need to be controlled, but commanded to do the tasks required by a person. – Oneil Leif Parrilla

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