Drone Art

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The LowDrone
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Drones are the coolest and/or the scariest topic in technology today. Americans are ambivalent about them: two thirds of us approve of drone strikes on suspected terrorists overseas, according to a Gallup poll, but just 13% of people surveyed approve of strikes against suspect terrorists at home.

Movies and TV are absorbing unmanned aerial vehicles (as they are properly called) as plot devices in The Bourne Legacy and Homeland, for example. But some fine artists are also trying to sway this national conversation. Adam Harvey designs burqas and hijabs that make the wearer invisible to drone cameras by altering the body’s heat signature; he calls his line of Stealth Wear the “armor” of the information age.

Filmmaker Alex Rivera and his collaborator Angel Nevarez were ahead of the curve; working on the US-Mexico border, they were aware of drones before most of us. Their LowDrone, from 2005, is a quadcopter tricked out to look like a flying Low Rider, with gold flake metallic paint. It doesn’t want to spy or kill — it just wants to have fun, hopping and dancing across the militarized, contested border.

And one group of professional dancers took an interest in drones. Pilobolus, a dance company in New York, approached MIT engineer Danny Soltero to choreograph a piece between dancers and machines. “We started out by saying ‘What do they do?’,” recalls Itamar Kubovy, who runs the dance company. “Could you land it on our head, could you land it on the floor, could you land it on our nose? Before too long, the choreographers were making engineering suggestions, and the engineers were making choreographic suggestions as to how to tell the story.” The show they made is called Seraph, about two species that discover each other: one metal, the other flesh.

→ Watch Phoenix's music video for the song "Entertainment," which was shot from a drone


Video: Dancing with Robots


 Slideshow: Stealth Wear and Creative Drones

Music Playlist

  1. Drone Zone

    Artist: Siouxsie
    Album: Mantaray
    Label: W14 Music
  2. Satin Drone

    Artist: Pantha Du Prince
    Album: Diamond Daze
    Label: Dial
  3. So Flows The Current

    Artist: Patrick O'Hearn
    Album: So Flows the Current
    Label: Patrickohearn.Com Music
  4. ae

    Artist: Fourcolor
    Album: Air Curtain
    Label: 12K

Artist Adam Harvey’s “Stealth Wear” collection is designed to interfere with drone surveillance by masking the body’s thermal signature. The ‘Anti-Drone’ scarf, made of metallized fabric and lined with silk, was inspired by the traditional hijab.

( Adam Harvey / ahprojects.com )

Infrared image of a model wearing Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ scarf.

( Adam Harvey / ahprojects.com )

Artist Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ burqa, also shown in infrared imaging.

( Adam Harvey / ahprojects.com )

Artist Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ hoodie.

( Adam Harvey / ahprojects.com )

Filmmaker Alex Rivera and his collaborator Angel Nevarez designed the LowDrone, a device that melds the functionality of the drone with the style of a Low Rider.

( LowDrone.com / Alex Rivera and Angel Nevarez )

Here the LowDrone flies along the US-Mexico border.

( LowDrone.com / Alex Rivera and Angel Nevarez )

Engineer Danny Soltero flies a drone in the Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT.

( Eric Molinsky )

A quadrotor platform (also known as quadcopter) with lights is piloted during a rehearsal of the dance piece Seraph, a collaboration between the Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT and the dance company Pilobolus.

( Courtesy of the Distributed Robotics Lab at CSAIL, MIT, and Pilobolus )