When we think of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), aka drones, we generally think of drone strikes. But they aren’t all used for state surveillance and military sector attacks.
The Camcopter S-100, a UAV designed by Gerhard Heufler and Hans Schiebel was originally designed for aerial landmine detection and eradication. At 41″ x 49″ x 10′ 1 5/8″ (104.2 x 123.8 x 310 cm), the Camcopter S-100 is bigger than you might think, but really not so very big given its range of 112 miles (180 km) at a top speed of 138 mph (222km/h). Viewed from the nose, it resembles a shark, yet at the same time looks surprising sweet. The on-board camera resides in a small pod attached to its underbelly.
Since the Camcopter S-100’s initial launch it has been employed in anti-smuggling efforts, border and harbor patrol, maritime reconnaissance, fire fighting, flood relief, search and rescue missions, and all manners of surveillance studies and projects. The sky’s the limit.
NASA uses UAVs to track hurricanes. UAVs were used to detect radiation levels at the Fukushima nuclear plant in the aftermath of the Tohuku earthquake and tsunami. Occupy Wall Street even had the “Occucopter,” a camera-mounted UAV that the animal rights group SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness) had planned to use to collect evidence of an illegal pigeon shoot, until it was reportedly shot down by the hunters.
In the past week alone I came across two very different kinds of stories about UAV use. The first was an Outside magazine photo caption recounting how the photographer, who while paddling boarding found himself above an usually large school of leopard sharks, was able to race to his car and grab his camera-mounted drone helicopter to capture the photograph of the animals. Then I spotted a piece online in The Guardian about video camera-mounted UAVs circling above the Fendi runway during fashion week in Milan sending live internet feeds.
Not to suggest the use of UAVs is all sweetness and light; it’s certainly not. There’s a reason the UAV/drone controversy exists, but then design is no stranger to violence. Currently there are two projects at MoMA examining this dynamic. First, there’s the contemporary design exhibition A Collection of Ideas, which explores new categories of investigation and new design forms, and features a group of works related to the topic of “Design and Violence.” The second is an online curatorial platform, also called Design and Violence,, which through ongoing open discourse observes the manifestations of violence through design in modern society. The website features the work of critical thinkers from fields as diverse as science, philosophy, literature, music, film, journalism, and politics in consideration of selected design objects, sparking a provocative conversation which welcomes everyone’s input—so please be sure to visit and join the discussion.
Currently on view in A Collection of Ideas, the Camcorder S-100 was first exhibited at MoMA in SAFE: Design Takes on Risk.