The development of drones in the military has often led to the feeling that a Terminator like future was coming on fast. The subject is huge, but if we focus solely on drones (and not robots…), it is really interesting to see that the imaginaries offer a variety of responses highlighting the limitations of their usages in war.

First of all, a drone can be fooled. This is something that is shown in many movies, such as in Upgrade, where a murder is committed, while a drone films everything but can not recognize anyone committing the crime.


Upgrade (2018) – Leigh Whannell

This can be linked in the real world to all the research done on how to fight the surveillance apparatus in cities / shopping centers etc.  In fact, a simple cloth can be of help when fighting something that looks otherwise rather invulnerable:


Battle Drone (2018) – Mitch Gould

This is something rather common in the history of military strategy: new enemies and/or new fields of operation implies new weaknesses. Just like recent history has shown us with the Afghanistan war, low cost war might cause high trouble to highly technologized armies like the US one. So there is no reason to envision a somehow shield of invulnerability due a to technological drastic evolution. Each technology co-evolves with its own meshwork of weaknesses. Some are part of the infrastructure, like storing or proceeding data in the so-called cloud (in fact highly vulnerable processors or networks of cable under the ocean) or relies on dim algorithms, like in Adam Harvey’s work.

In the case of these movie, because, since it is a drone and not a robot, it is dependent upon … communication. So just killing that link between the drone and the pilot will clearly be an issue, rendering the drone useless:


Battle Drone (2018) – Mitch Gould

Then, a drone can be stolen / caught. In Battle Drone for example, a simple rope will allow to set up a trap (and in the end destroy the drone).


Battle Drone (2018) – Mitch Gould

This is very close from what people are developing with nets  or even net guns like from the guys at Make it Extreme. Interestingly, it sometimes calls for extreme proximity with the drone. Catching or disarming it can not always be done from far away:


Battle Drone (2018) – Mitch Gould

So imaginaries of war highlight the frailtyies of those new highly technologized weapons. Does that means there is no evolution or transformation regarding how to deal with drones? Interestingly, some features might be candidate to potential evolution. Think for instance about the very fact of shooting dozens of bullets to annihilate the drone, something that seems fairly disproportionate in the case of a human soldier. By comparison just making it blind just by adding a small piece of fabric like in that movie seems fairly efficient. Just like hunting a man is not hunting an animal, there might appear a rather subtly new paradigm of man hunting drones depending on the way to behave properly to capture it.

For example, one might not need to protect his body odors like hunter do (as far as we know), but one might beware of his body heat due to the full range of heat camera that equips military drones today. Works about how so-called traditional hunting and how they interact with animals might be an interesting analogous situation in order interesting to understand this new inter-specific mode of communication (see for instance the recent and ground-breaking Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think).