Not so long ago, you only heard about drones in the context of US military incursions across the Pakistani border. Now, I can't get through a day on the Internet without running into a half-dozen diverse stories about unmanned robot development. Whether they're creating mesh networks, delivering tacos, or anchoring grassroots surveillance programs, drone technologies are finally developing outside the military-industrial complex.

The development of DIY and commercial drones shouldn't surprise us; the Internet itself began (depending on who you ask) with ARPANET (the Defense Department's "Advanced Research Projects Agency Network") before becoming a space for tinkerers and entrepreneurs. If recent developments are any indication, drones could be headed for the same narrative. Here are a few uses that have popped up in the last few months:

  • TacoCopter
    Could drones be the near-future of food delivery? Even though this smartphone-enabled spin on the taco truck is currently illegal (no flying drones allowed for commercial purposes in the US yet), even the suggestion has garnered a lot of public attention. Just imagine your mouth watering at the overhead sound of those whirring rotors…
  • Fukuyama Surveillance Drone
    One of the intellectual fathers of neo-conservatism, Francis Fukuyama has been spending his time after the "end of history" freaking out about the government forbidding him from making his own drones. So he's making them now before the feds catch up. Fukuyama is tracking his progress at his blog on The American Interest.
  • Pirate Bay Anony-Drone
    File-sharing sites are definitely looking for solutions in the wake of the attack of Megaupload. Never to be outwitted by the cops, the folks at The Pirate Bay have announced plans to base their first level of directing servers on drones floating kilometers above international waters. This way, it will require an aerial act of war to take down the site. Your move, MPAA.
  • Mesh Network Drone Mob
    The Pirate Bay aren't the first ones to think of an airborne file-shairng network. The program "Electronic Countermeasures" has built a functional fleet of five hovering drones that work together to create their own localized network that can connect users on the ground. Call it Drone2Drone sharing. Plus, they light up when sending or recieving files, giving visual expression to the flow of electronic information.

Of course it's not time to stop being paranoid about the robots' downsides. As the tumblr "Terrifying Robot Update" makes clear, a lot of the most advanced technologies belong squarely in the corner of corporate and state interests. But the possibilities are there. And if you want to join in, there's always DIYDrones.com.




Malcolm is a writer based in the Bay Area and the Life/Art channel editor at Shareable. His work has been featured on Alternet, KQED.org, The Los Angeles Free Press, and