It took a while to track down the markings, but this aircraft bears the insignia of the 138th Attack Squadron, part of the 174th Attack Wing (174 ATW), a unit of the New York Air National Guard, stationed at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York. This image at Wikipediashows another 174 ATW aircraft, registration 09-4066 (this serial number does not appear in Joe Baugher’s listing of 2009 USAF serials, although there is a record of a Reaper aircraft numbered 09-4056 which crashed in California in 2010).
I had some suspicions about the Canon Drone, and research bears these out.
At first, the feeling was just unease. Staring at it for some time, seeing it endlessly reproduced across the web and in print, it began to seem unreal, a fiction, too smooth, too perfect. But that’s an effect of drones: they always appear otherworldly. (See, for example, this image of a Global Hawk at Waddington Air Show in 2010. The beluga-like Hawk seems impossible, smoothly rendered into the perambulating crowd.)
Of course, it’s not just that. The Canon Drone is indeed entirely unreal. A close inspection, and comparison with other Reaper images, including 09-4066, bears this out almost immediately. The level of detail is too low: missing hatches on the cockpit and tail, the shape of the air intake, the greebling on the fins and body. That ‘NY’ on the tail: it’s not aligned properly, it’s a photoshop. Finally, the Canon Drone’s serial, partly obscured, appears to be 85-566. The first two numbers of USAF serials refer to the year an aircraft entered service: there were no Reapers back in 1985 (development didn’t even begin until 2001).
The Canon Drone does not exist, it never has. It is computer generated rendering of a drone, a fiction. It flies over an abstracted landscape - although perhaps the same one as another canonical image, this Predator in flight, which, while unmarked, at least appears worn enough to be believable.
Where does the image originate? As the default drone photo, it is endlessly reproduced without attribution. It appears in Google Image searches for 2009, but not for 2008 - although I’m unsure how reliable this dating is. I’ve hit a wall in finding out more.
I think: the Canon Drone is emblematic of the liminal, self-obfuscating essence of the UAV, and all of our noumenal infrastructures. The most widely reproduced image of this most illegible of our contemporary technologies is itself a dream.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s curt, forty-three word letter to Senator Rand Paul stating whether or not President Barack Obama can order a drone strike on an American citizen “not engaged in combat” on American soil.
January 3rd: 6-10 killed in Agdoor Adda, close to the Afghan border, by a night strike on a house. The dead included Maulvi Nazir, a Taliban leader who supported attacks in Afghanistan but not against the Pakistani government. #drone #drones #pakistan (at Agdoor Adda, South Waziristan)
If you’re looking for a different perspective on drone strikes, there’s also Dronestagram, which is basically what it sounds like—satellite images of reported drone strike targets.
"[The Obama targeted killing paper argues] a single ‘high level-official,’ whose authority is undefined, can approve a death sentence for an American citizen as long as the target is too difficult for the US government to capture and the loss of civilian life that would result from a targeted killing is not deemed excessive."
Terminator Planet provides a rich history of the last decade of drone warfare, a clear-eyed look at its present, and a far-reaching guide to its future. You used to have to watch science fiction movies to imagine where that future was headed, now you can read Terminator Planet — and know.