In two recently published research projects, Anthony McCosker looks at the question of what’s at stake when cameras take to the skies on aerial drones (aka UAVs). In the past few years, protests and coups in Thailand, Hong Kong, Turkey, Poland and elsewhere have been shadowed by camera mounted drones bringing a new perspective on large urban protests to the world via social media. In these events we have drones have not only offered new visibility to urban conflict, they have actively reshaped it.

And as the commercial and private uses of drones rapidly evolve a whole range of legal and public policy issues are coming to the fore. Like other countries, Australia is grappling with questions of how to regulate the potential privacy invasions, the physical dangers of drones sharing airspace with other aircraft, especially around bushfire zones, or breeching IP law to film sporting events. In all of these contexts, we are certainly dealing with new ways of seeing the world around us, and an intriguing and fast evolving new media form in aerial drones.