Autonomous Drones and Film- In the Robot Skies: A drone Love Story

IN THE ROBOT SKIES TEASER from liam young on Vimeo.

According to the description of this film teaser, In the Robot Skies (Liam Young) is “the world’s first narrative shot entirely through autonomous drones.” The story takes place in a dystopic near-future where authoritative drones maintain social and spatial order from the sky. In this context, two teenagers confined to their respective apartment buildings begin to fall in love. The prevalence of drones serves as a “catalyst for a new collection of urban sub cultures” and for the formation of a “new network of surveillance activists and drone hackers.” It is in this manner that the two teenagers are able to communicate despite their enforced separation.

In this film, the autonomy of the drone-directors extends beyond the production process, as it fully defines the nature of the viewing process. In the establishing shots, we are introduced to the local landscape which, in its construction and function, disregards the human scale. Here we see (some) of Sedlmayr’s seven trends in action, particularly “A progressive hankering for the inorganic.” With the exception of a few plants around 0:35 and some leafless trees around 1:00, we see nothing but cold, lifeless, hard edges. The dispassionate lens of the drone is transferred to the subjectivity of the viewer, as we are introduced to one of the main characters from the surveillance drone’s perspective (resident #s 75571 and 27738). As a viewer we experience some relief as we observe through the arguably friendlier hacked drone.

Similar to Burnham’s inquiry into what system-oriented art implies for the wider art world (curators, the museum experience, artist’s livelihood, etc) we can now begin to question what using autonomous drones as directors, camera operators, etc implies for the creation and consumption of film.

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