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[liberationtech] Drones are not storytellers or why Syrians need better storytelling was Re: Pirate Bay turns to drones

ale fernandez skoria at
Fri Mar 23 15:54:34 PDT 2012


Really interesting thread. I think drones aren't just supposed to be for gathering news or stories, but could also be for directly helping out on the ground, beyond broadcasting from problem areas to elsewhere.

On Fri, 23 Mar 2012 10:37:14 -0700
Brian Conley <brianc at> wrote:

> And this is exactly the piece that so many are missing:
> “At the end of the day,” according to the first expert I consulted, “a
> drone is a tool, and the strategic advantage it may provide will also
> depend on the funda-mental unity, planning, and discipline that a movement
> has or does not have.  For example, if a movement is lacking a
> fundamentally good and unifying message, no amount of technology will
> substitute for that, and thus the strategic value of that technology is
> diminished in the context of that movement.  On the other hand if a
> movement has a good and unifying message and levers technology to reinforce
> that message, then the technology can act as a multiplier and provide
> substantially more strategic value.”

What comes to mind for me when thinking of humanitarian drones isn't just what kind of news does it bring to the outside world, but how one might use it to help people with little resources deal with some of the life or death situations going on there and then. Each situation is different but I'm thinking of syria as an example: 

A drone/blimp would probably have to make itself "visible" to all - by broadcasting wireless or mobile connectivity etc - possibly by taking the telecomix approach and just appearing on the pages people visit with useful info(get ready to gather water, it's raining tomorrow etc), or as an open wifi/mobile connection. This means you need working electricity/phones/laptops recieving.

It could also then use it's mobility and speed to respond to what people send it and maybe even remote operators can verify. For example - if a drone was able to broadcast a wifi signal that took you to an ushahidi - people could start reporting issues and solving them, and the drone could then send that info around. 

A key problem is therefore how do you decide who is a crisis stricken civilian, and who is just trying to get access to info so as to bomb/attack those places again. This would mean 3 types of data: (disclaimer: I'm a web developer) something that let people connect safely somehow between each other, something that gave general access info(like a blank map or safety/medical info), and another that only sent info for or between trusted parties, and all done in such a way that even if the drone was compromised, the data wouldn't be able to be used against the people it was trying to help. 

Ideally wifi giving drones would work well with a hypothetical mesh network on the ground - so that the drone only provided the uplink or "sync" with the internet, and the network was all built to work fine without the link 90% of the time. 


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