Drone methodologies: Taking flight in human and physical geography
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Wiley for Institute of British Geographers / Royal Geographical Society
©2018 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
The world of late seems oversaturated with stories about drones. These suddenly pervasive machines straddle a divide in geography, being simultaneously an important tool for proximal sensing in physical geography and technology with military origins that human geographers have critically engaged. This paper, a collaboration between a physical and a human geographer, is an exploration of the epistemological nexus that a critical drone methodology offers the discipline, and which we suggest provides a new opportunity for collaborative human/physical geography. Drawing on our own research with drones and that of others, we demonstrate how recent scholarship on vertical geographies and longstanding remote-sensing frameworks are challenged by drone methodologies where social, environmental and technological concerns are entangled with the politics of access to proximal airspace and, in doing so, define a new conceptual atmospheric zone within the Earth's atmospheric boundary layer – the “Nephosphere” – where drone experimentation occurs. We argue that engagement with non-military uses of drones is crucial for the discipline, now that we are entering an uncertain aerial future that will be replete with flying robots, and suggest drones are reconfiguring geographic imaginations. In short, we call on geographers to participate actively in the shaping of new drone methodologies where the values and perils of the technology can be critically debated from the starting point of the experiential, rather than the speculative.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Wiley via the DOI in this record
Published online 12 March 2018