art installation drone strike

If you’re a Maker then you’re probably already aware that the drone community is full of fun-loving and innovative hobbyists. While we love to uplift and celebrate the recreational side of R/C aircrafts, it’s also important to recognize that drones are still used as instruments of warfare.

Los Angeles-based visual artist Jonathan Fletcher Moore is interested in this recognition of drones’ darker side. His art installation “Artificial Killing Machine” is an autonomous mechanical contraption that operates based on updates from a public database on U.S. military drone strikes.

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When a drone strike happens, a toy gun is fired for every resulting death. The data pulled from the database — including city, country, number of deaths, and a description of the occurrence — is then printed on receipt paper that descends towards a chair in which a viewer of the installation is invited to sit. As Moore explains on his website:

“At its simplest, this art installation is a data visualization project. Its goal is to make visible the invisible or that which is too concealed to perceive.

More broadly, this project approaches the topic of drone strikes through the combined associations of people as statistics, and the concept of game and childhood-play to express the uncertainty of war, technology, and social progress.

As it explores the relationships and interactions between technology and human life, it asks, ‘Do we feel comfortable?'”

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The database itself is compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and is made publicly accessible via Josh Begley’s API Dronestre.am.

The mechanics of the installation are composed of five main components: control electronics, a printer, servo motors, toy cap guns, and batteries. Servo motors are affixed to the cap guns and powered by a motor controller, while a Raspberry Pi is responsible for bridging the gap between updates to the database and activation of the motor controller. Moore describes the human data as “the fuel of the machine.”

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The following video, while poignant and beautifully made, is haunting in its successful conveyance of what this data visualization really represents: warfare and death.