In the skies above the city a drone flock drifts into formation broadcasting their local file sharing network. Part nomadic infrastructure and part robotic swarm they form a pirate internet, an aerial napster, darting between the buildings….
Today we are much closer to our virtual community than we are to our real neighbours. This death of distance has created new forms of city based around ephemeral digital connections rather than physical geography. The infrastructure that drove the development of the city was once large permanent networks of roads, plumbing and park spaces but are now nomadic digital networks, orbiting GPS satellites and cloud computing connections.
Revolutionary communities are coalescing around social networks and text messages and occupy the city with the force to topple governments. The U.S. military’s has development autonomous aerial drones that they can be launched across a place like Egypt, when the government cut off internet access to prevent people from organizing protests. These drones would fly off and hover above the city, and create ad hoc connections and networks in a new form of nomadic territorial infrastructure.
Electronic Countermeasures is a project inspired by these new forms of nomadic infrastructure. The project explores the design and manufacture of a flock of interactive autonomous drones that form their own place specific, temporary, local, WIFI community- a pirate internet.
We have built a flock of GPS enabled quadcopter drones from components that were originally intended for aerial reconnaissance and police surveillance to create this flying pirate file sharing network. The drones are autonomous and drift above the public spaces of the city as a balletic interactive aerial choreography. Part nomadic infrastructure and part robotic swarm we have rebuilt and programmed the drones to broadcast their own local wifi network as a form of aerial Napster. They swarm into formation, broadcasting their pirate network, and then disperse, escaping detection, only to reform elsewhere.
The public can upload files, photos and share data with one another as the drones float above the significant public spaces of the city. The swarm becomes a pirate broadcast network, a mobile infrastructure that passers-by can interact with. It is a site specific file sharing hub, a temporary, emergent online community where content and information is exchanged across the drone network. When on location, a visitor can log onto the drone network with their phones and laptops. When the audience interacts with the drones they glow with vibrant colours, they break formation, they are called over and their flight pattern becomes more dramatic and expressive. Impromptu augmented communities form around the glowing flock. Their aerial dance and dynamic glowing formations give visual expression to the digital communities of the city.
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