The proliferation of drones throughout the military — and into civilian law enforcement — can make it feel like we’re living in an airborne panopticon. But flying robots are agnostic about who they train their gaze upon, and can spy on cops as easily as they can spy on civilians.
In the video above, protesters in Warsaw got a drone’s eye view of a phalanx of police in riot gear during a heated Saturday demonstration. The drone — spotted by Wired editor-in-chief and drone-builder Chris Anderson — was a tiny Polish RoboKopter equipped with a videocamera.
As Chris observes, no more do citizens need to wait for news choppers to get aerial footage of a major event. With drones, they can shoot their own overhead video. But the implications run deeper than that.
The Occupy events around the country gained initial notoriety by filming and uploading incidents of apparent police brutality. Anyone with a cellphone camera and a YouTube account could become a videographer, focusing attention on behavior that cops or banks might not want broadcasted or that the media might not transmit. When the New York Police Department cleared out Zuccotti Park on Tuesday, out came the cellphones to document it.
Getting an aerial view is the next step in compelling DIY citizen video.