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‘Dronestagram’ Shares Photos of Drone-Strike Targets Online

By sharing satellite photos and brief descriptions, writer hopes to make drone strikes seem less remote

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A predator drone hangs in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington. Photo: Colin Schultz

Since their humble beginnings at the turn of the 20th century, unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones, have evolved into sophisticated combat aircraft. Some, such as the U.S. Air Force’s Predator, can be equipped with missiles and have been used to carry out lethal attacks around the world.

Despite the fact that drones are controlled directly by a pilot, the remote, semi-robotic nature of the strikes gives the sense that they are a different beast than those coming from a human-piloted airplane. According to writer and developer James Bridle, says The Verge, “the true power of drones is their role as a ‘distancing technology’ which further abstracts a disengaged populace from acts of state-funded aggression.”

To combat this perception of remoteness, Bridle launched an Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter feed known as “Dronestagram.” On his feed, Bridle posts satellite photos of some of the places hit by drone strikes, along with a short description of what you’re looking at. The information on the strikes comes from the reports of the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

According to the Daily Mail, the Bureau “compiles reports from Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia and, as well as providing the satellite image, Dronestagram augments these with a variety of sources to offer more background on the targets hit.”

Bridle’s Dronestagram has so far focused on Yemen and Pakistan, but, according to Wired‘s Noah Shachtman the use of UAVs in those countries has been a side-show to their use in Afghanistan.

The American military has launched 333 drone strikes this year in Afghanistan. That’s not only the highest total ever, according to U.S. Air Force statistics. It’s essentially the same number of robotic attacks in Pakistan since the CIA-led campaign there began nearly eight years ago. In the last 30 days, there have been three reported strikes in Yemen. In Afghanistan, that’s just an average day’s worth of remotely piloted attacks. And the increased strikes come as the rest of the war in Afghanistan is slowing down.

Since its inception three weeks ago Bridle has so far posted six photos.

More from Smithsonian.com:
Drones Get Smarter
Drawing the Line on Drones

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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