With a 10 year head start on the rest of the competition, the United States remains, by far, the world’s leader in drone technology. Surprised?
Drone technology was initially created to safely and discreetly gather information about an area, person, or thing by the CIA. These government drones can spy on any given target from far above sea level, usually untraceable to the human eye. With these practical features, drone technology naturally caught the media’s attention when introduced to the open market.
The emergence of civilian drones (figure 1) is quickly dismantling our traditional view of pen and paper journalism and turning it into a floating machine, quietly buzzing around its business. This evolution in news-gathering is occurring so rapidly, that any credible news media source has already fully implemented drone technology. What most technologies strive to achieve in years, drones did in matter of weeks, turning the media world upside down.
Today, media outlets not implementing drones to gather information are quickly written off as dinosaurs and left in the dust. Why would one stream rush hour traffic from a multi-million-dollar helicopter when you can toss a drone out of NBC’s window and do the same thing? The massive savings in cost and reduced liabilities aren’t the main reason why these companies are switching over (unheard of in the business world), in fact there are multiple reasons ahead of this. For starters, as mentioned before, if you don’t use drones you are a dinosaur. Period. The rest of the reasons all stem from the seemingly endless capabilities of drone technology to revolutionize the service being provided by the media. These journalists now have a new means to approach and cover a story, providing consumers with new angles (literally and figuratively) on the news as its occurring.
The New York Times was one of the first media groups to spearhead this approach, highlighting how drone technology is making this possible. Last October, they released a story on the Syrian Civil War’s destruction of Aleppo using a drone (figure 2). The drone’s footage documented the devastation in such a way that it produced feelings impossible to recreate by traditional journalism.
The footage evoked these strong emotions by showing us the sheer magnitude and volume of destruction that one could never document from the ground. Drones take the message traditional journalism complicates and serves it to you bluntly, enabling a raw, uncut understanding of the subject. To simplify, if The Times documented the destruction of Aleppo traditionally one would think, “Gosh darn, that city is destroyed” as opposed to, “Holy smokes, that whole city is literally destroyed” with the drone.
The key takeaway here is that drone technology greatly facilitates the interpretation of messages we are trying to send through the media. The point of human communication is to receive and interpret messages we send to each other, and drones greatly facilitate the interpretation of these messages. If this is true, then this isn’t just a media revolution but a
societal one as well. Imagine trying to explain to our privileged kids what it’s really like to be poor, to starve, to sleep on a floor, and to live in despair through a photograph? You can’t, but rather envision following a starving child going through his daily activities in real time with a drone? The enormous capability of drones to convey messages reduces the cultural boundaries between societies so that we can gain a better understanding of each other as humans. Isn’t this the greatest gift technology can give?