While drones are changing the way we document architecture and cities, both from the perspective of architectural photography and grassroots activism, the technology remains a complex and sometimes controversial topic. Just last week, the FAA posted a friendly reminder that the University of Phoenix Stadium would be a "No Drone Zone" during the Super Bowl. It is like an ironic PSA from a dark, futuristic movie. But now that ISIS has drones, it is not so easy to assume that every drone is for photography, and not armed with a cell phone bomb.
The other issue with drones is that they can fall out of the sky and injure people or land in a very important front yard. There is even the case of a Mexican drug cartel drone crashing in a parking lot with a load of meth. Even as each of these are unprecedented incidents raises new questions, UAVs are still, for the most part, remote-controlled helicopters retrofitted with bombs, missiles, cameras, sensors, and cargo. The reason that this ad seems so futuristic is that it talks about them like they are intelligent beings, like pets or members of the family. This is when drones become really creepily futuristic.
Furthermore, while the PSA is unsettling, drones also continue to capture some creepy stuff. Pro-government forces used unmanned aircraft to survey damage of the Donetsk Airport in Ukraine after it was destroyed in the battle between the military and rebel forces. Before and after photos illustrate the near complete destruction of the nice, recently built airport, adding a very real sense of horror to an already terrifying situation.
Similar videos capture landscapes in ruin, both culturally, like the flyover of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, where 1.1 million people died at the hand of the Nazis — last week saw the 70th anniversary of its liberation — or physically, in the ruins of Chernobyl, the site of a terrible nuclear disaster in 1986. The site has long been a ruin-porn mecca, but drones show it in a different light, offering the context of its surroundings. This genre of never-before-seen footage somehow makes these places even creepier then they were in our imagination.