Aerial Dronestagram image Beida valley
January 19th: a house destroyed in the Beida valley, killing 8. Three more were killed in Maarib, in a separate strike. Earlier this month, tribespeople blocked roads through the region in protest at the death of innocent civilians which fed anger aginst the United States. #drone #drones #yemen

Through his investigation of military drones, writer, artist, publisher and technologist James Bridle analysises the visual, technological, ethical and political impact on modern warfare - and how anonymous, automated machines can remove any trace of the human hand in committing acts of war. 

Aerial Dronestagram image Agdoor Adda
January 3rd: 6-10 killed in Agdoor Adda, close to the Afghan border, by a night strike on a house. The dead included Maulvi Nazir, a Taliban leader who supports attacks in Afghanistan but not against the Pakistani government. #drone #drones #pakistan

Over the course of a few years, starting in around 2009, I started to become quite obsessed by drones - the military ones, the flying death robots, that had been in the air for a while, spreading a certain kind of warfare around the world, but had not really entered the public consciousness, or the public discourse. I was trying to understand these machines, and I had been drawing them: sketching them out in a series of 1:1 outlines in city streets, called Drone Shadows. But I was also intrigued by their point of view - or rather, as with so many aspects of contemporary conflict, and contemporary technology, the absence of it.

Aerial Dronestagram Abdu Mohammed al-Jarrah
Also January 23, a strike on two motorcycles missed or partially missed its target, hitting the house of Abdu Mohammed al-Jarrah, killing several people including al-Jarrah's two children. #yemen #drone #drones

I was reading the reports of drone strikes in undeclared wars, illegal assassinations in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, gathered from eyewitness accounts and local media by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. But I was struck by the absence of imagery. We’ve become used to the mediation of war, the live coverage of shock and awe, cameras in the nosecones of cruise missiles. Before TV, radio reported from war zones; before photography, newspapers sent illustrators to the battlefield.

Aerial Dronestagram image North Waziristan
March 10 2013. 2-3 killed by a strike in North Waziristan on the Afghan/Pakistan border, riding horses or motorbikes. Identities unknown. Rescue work was reportedly delayed as drones hovered over the area after the strike. #pakistan #drone #drones

But this war, the most technologically advanced and apparently endless war, was devoid of imagery. And yet at the same time, we’ve spent the last decade obsessively photographing the planet from space, and building image-sharing networks that connect the cameras in everyone’s pockets to everyone else. I can take out my phone and see through the eyes of someone on the other side of the planet - or through the sensors of a satellite in high earth orbit. Moreover, these systems of visibility and surveillance operate on the same substrate as the war machine, the drones themselves: networked communications, digital images, GPS systems.

Aerial Dronestagram Khasso Khel
January 8th: two strikes on the villages of Khasso Khel and Haider Khel in North Waziristan. Both strieks destroyed buildings and killed 6-8 people. Retired General Stanley McChrystal told Reuters: 'what scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world. The resentment created by American use of unmanned much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one.' #pakistan #drone #drones

So I decide to close the circle. Take images of the landscapes of the drone war, located on publicly-available digital maps, and post them back to social media as the strikes occur. Villages in Waziristan, quiet desert roads in Shabwa, coastal settlements in Shabelle - places no Western reporters or soldiers go to, bombed by robots, photographed by other robots, circulating through Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr. Every time the drones strike, an image. I’d like to stop now, but I can’t. That’s not how the network, or the war, works.

Aerial Dronestagram Southern Yemen
December 24th: two killed and three injured in the town of Rada'a, Southern Yemen. one of the deaths is believed to be Abdel-Raouf Naseeb, who escaped the first redorded drone strike in Yemen, on Nov 3, 2003. #yemen #drone #drones

See the rest of James Bridle’s Dronestgram feed