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Investments in the imaginary: commercial drone speculations and relations

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  • 1 Royal Holloway, University of London, , UK
  • | 2 University of Zurich, , Switzerland
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Drones are increasingly understood and imagined as important actors, inhabiting and transforming aerial space. From their entrenched establishment within battlefield operations, drones have spawned into a diverse ecosystem of platforms and applications, increasingly punctuating domestic urban airspace. While occupying a status as exemplars of urban innovation, the drone poses, and remains bound to, a range of techno-cultural contestations – from challenges around airspace integration, to concerns around privacy, safety and pollution. Thinking with commercial drone futures, and specifically the logistics sector, this article interrogates the role of speculation in this unfolding techno-landscape. In so doing we turn to two key sites through which the drone is anticipated – namely patents and adverts – as lenses through which to investigate projected visualisations underpinning the emergent, envisioned and anticipated drone. We argue that such drone speculations do not simply and solely envision new means of circulating goods, people and information, but rather embody and act to promote a particular set of aerial desires and social relations. Critically unpacking envisioned notions of frictionless mobility, instant consumption, and the appropriation of vertical spaces and spectra, we argue that such speculative sites and practices importantly participate in a techno-fetishist agenda positing drone technology as a privileged and panacea agent of futurity, while often eliding its implications.

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  • 1 Royal Holloway, University of London, , UK
  • | 2 University of Zurich, , Switzerland

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