Sunday, March 10, 2019


 Pay Attention: The Drones Are Here Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019

Australia is playing an increasingly active part in the development and procurement of airborne drones for military and associated purposes. Airborne drones are used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] purposes, with certain types of drones also capable of carrying weapon payloads.

Examples are::

*MQ 9B Sky Guardian drones have been chosen in favour of MQ 9 Reaper Drones. You can read about this decision HERE in Flight Global. These drones are weaponisable. For background on this decision please check out HERE in an Australian Financial Review article , and HERE is a Defense News: Asia Pacific article.

Triton surveillance drones are also on order. You can read about this news on the Australian Airforce website HERE

And, another drone will be manufactured here in Australia in partnership with Boeing. Currently called the "Loyal Wingman" project, you can read about it on the ABC News site HERE. And, an announcement on the current Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne's website HERE. And, on Boeing's website HERE

Australian defence forces have used surveillance drones for some time. For example the Scan Eagle drone has been used in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can read a 2007 article about the Scan Eagle drone HERE at Defence News. You can also read about a Scan Eagle drone now in the Australian War Memorial's collection HERE

* Updated Dec 3, 2019

 Not Waiting For The Future Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2018

As Australia becomes more involved in militarised drone operations, procurement and developments, questions that are already being debated globally need to be debated here too. For example, questions about remote operations - surveillance, targeting and killing. The use of unmanned aircraft with sophisticated ISR capabilities, and possible weapon payloads, raises questions about asymmetric warfare. Increasingly autonomous systems employing machine learning and AI raise questions, for example, about human-in-the-loop decision making and the ethics of machine killing. The contemporary 'warfighter' could be a human being, but also an [semi] autonomous  machine. 

The appropriation of technological infrastructure and systems for surveillance and targeting purposes raises questions about the neutrality, or not, of contemporary interconnected technologies. What part does interconnected technology play in preemptive activities? The increasingly blurred lines between military, security and policing activities raise questions about the nature of  contemporary warfare, and its battle fields and spaces. The accelerating nature of technological development stimulates questions about the future of war, and the future of humanity. Are we in a new arms race? Questions about the role of science and technology come to mind. As do questions about legal and ethical frameworks that can be applied to accelerating developments. The speed of technological operation raises further questions that feed into debates about asymmetric war, human involvement, networked systems, social vulnerability, geopolitics, and more...and more.

Since 2015 I have been thinking about these types of questions. I have also undertaken formal research, completing an M. Phil [University of Queensland] that included research into contemporary militarised technology, particularly airborne drones.  

In this post I have included five paintings that reflect upon Australia and airborne drones. 

Pay Attention: The Drones Are Here [top] is my newest painting. An armed drone is pointed towards an upside-down Australia. Is the drone a new arrival, soon to join its Australian fleet? Maybe it is an Australian drone, maybe not. Australia is upside down on purpose, actually a few purposes! The small squares give the impression of pixels. Is the image a simulation? Are you another drone gazing down upon the scene? Is the painting a screen shot? Or, are you a human engaging your imagination in a way that turns human surveillance back onto the drone? Regular readers will recognise the cosmic perspective I love to use here - like in the other four paintings too. Lots of interesting questions and scenarios!

I'll leave you to ponder now. 

Cheers, Kathryn

 Aeropolitics Imagined Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

 What If? Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Hot Spots Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

No comments: