Drones have changed how we see the world. Remotely piloted and equipped with sensors, drones are changing the way we witness war, climate change, political protest, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drones do more than see
It's true that drones are vision machines: they loiter in the air with a persistent eye on the ground, beaming back imagery to their control point. For most drones, the images they send are optical. For military drones and those used in policing, border surveillance and even animal conservation, thermographic imaging is also common.
But drones are also data machines, accumulating information about altitude, speed, location and more.
Witnessing the pandemic
This year, drones have allowed people around the world to witness cities emptied of their usual crowds. These images testify to the scale of the upheaval of everyday life.
As our ability to encounter the world beyond our neighborhoods recedes, drones could open up the world in unexpected ways.
With millions stuck in lockdown and travel restrictions in place, drone footage shared online can help people experience distant places without leaving home.