The Good Drone

Returning to Vancouver and my stuffed mailbox after several weeks away, I found a copy of The Good Drone edited by Kristin Bergtora Sandvik and Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (thank you both!).  I’ve known Kristin for several years now, and always learned much from her insightful and imaginative work, and it’s wonderfully refreshing to find a book that has so many new things to say about drones:

While the military use of drones has been the subject of much scrutiny, the use of drones for humanitarian purposes has so far received little attention. As the starting point for this study, it is argued that the prospect of using drones for humanitarian and other life-saving activities has produced an alternative discourse on drones, dedicated to developing and publicizing the endless possibilities that drones have for “doing good”. Furthermore, it is suggested that the Good Drone narrative has been appropriated back into the drone warfare discourse, as a strategy to make war “more human”.

This book explores the role of the Good Drone as an organizing narrative for political projects, technology development and humanitarian action. Its contribution to the debate is to take stock of the multiple logics and rationales according to which drones are “good”, with a primary objective to initiate a critical conversation about the political currency of “good”. This study recognizes the many possibilities for the use of drones and takes these possibilities seriously by critically examining the difference the drones’ functionalities can make, but also what difference the presence of drones themselves – as unmanned and flying objects – make. Discussed and analysed are the implications for the drone industry, user communities, and the areas of crisis where drones are deployed.

Here are the substantive chapters (following a sparkling introduction by the editors):

1: Susanne Krasmann – Targeted ‘Killer Drones’ and the Humanitarian Discourse: On a Liaison

2: John Karlsrud and Frederik Rosén – Lifting the Fog of War? Opportunities and Challenges of Drones in UN Peace Operations

3: Kristoffer Lidén and Kristin Bergtora Sandvik – Poison Pill or Cure-All: Drones and the Protection of Civilians

4: Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert – Creating the EU Drone: Control, Sorting, and Search and Rescue at Sea

5: Kristin Bergtora Sandvik – The Public Order Drone: Proliferation and Disorder in Civil Airspace

6: Brad Bolman– A Revolution in Agricultural Affairs: Dronoculture, Precision, Capital

7: Serge Wich, Lorna Scott, and Lian Pin Koh – Wings for Wildlife: the use of Conservation Drones, challenges and opportunities

8: Mareile Kaufmann – Drone/Body: the Drone’s Power to Sense and Construct Emergencies

It’s available as an e-book, which brings the otherwise usurious price within reach, but if you want a preview of Kristin’s work I recommend her essay (with Kjersti Lohne) on ‘The rise of the humanitarian drone’ in Millennium 43 (1) (2014) 145-164.