Flone or how to "occupy" aerial space

Some points on what the Flone project entails and what the idea of “occupying” space implies.

Published: Nov 27, 2013
Flone or how to "occupy" aerial space

Image of Flone, the flying mobile telephone project, according to the proposal presented by the authors

By Semíramis González (@semiramis_glez),
Semíramis en Babilonia

Flone, The Flying Phone, is the winning proposal for the artist residency Next Things 2013 –Next Space, the Second Global Art and Technology Challenge, the joint call for ideas by LABoral Centro de Arte and Telefónica I+D, the research, development and innovation company of the Telefónica Group.

What is Flone?
Flone is a project created by the artist and computer engineer Lot Amorós, technical engineer Cristina Navarro, and industrial engineer Alexandre Oliver. It is a drone (an unmanned aerial vehicle), intended to be the smallest possible size, which uses a smartphone as a flight controller. Perhaps it is more difficult giving its definition than seeing its image to get a better idea of what the piece is.

Following the development of the idea, the mobile telephone can fly approximately 20 metres and even rotate and move around itself, taking photographs or recording a video.

The issues arising from this never fail to surprise us and even the creators themselves bring them to the table for discussion in order to improve the performance of Flone: the fact that it is able to use aerial space is controversial, especially on the grounds of privacy since frequently these technologies have been employed for military use or in the clear interests of governments. However, this also raises the possibility of exploring a new common space – air space.

The work, self-produced by these three creators with the support of Next Things, aims to deeply explore options of “occupying” public space. Apart from occupy the streets, why not occupy the air as well?

One of the points I found most interesting when considering how this piece was developed is the unwavering involvement of the artists, who are constantly seeking to show their desire to generate alternatives in the technological development of public spaces: this explains why they are spreading all the necessary documentation in order to share their knowledge and experience on the development and evolution of Flone, with the purpose of creating a platform that builds a community around it.

There is a clear declaration of intent in the statement by the three artists: we want to reject the use of drones as a weapon of war and a tool for social control and propose that we get organised to deactivate it and transform it into a useful object in terms of humanity.

Even the license of the project, under Creative Commons, fosters the idea of expansion and community: of sharing and expanding the idea of Flone and its functions when using it.

The creators have been developing and informing about the whole process via a blog where they share their experiences of Flone in entries with images, and so opening up a space to follow its progress.  This is where I read one of the sentences which most struck me in relation to the project: Flone is conceived as a hack which transforms air space into public space. A real declaration of principles: from space to air, aerial space seen as public.

For a better understanding of how Flone works, which will soon be presented, you can watch this short video where you can observe what this technology and a smartphone can do:

And you – what do you think about Flone?
Do you believe that this device is capable of helping us to take ownership of a space such as the aerial one?
Can recording and photographic technologies be used beyond political and military interests? What ethical questions are present (or absent) in the development of such an object? And most importantly, are we the owners of the space in which we live - land or air?

In my opinion Flone is a work which has been developed from a technological perspective yet, at the same time, its more artistic part has raised many questions about the ethics of places and state control over individuals.

Even though we realize that a smartphone capable of flying, recording or taking photographs is not bad in itself, can we really use it for our development and benefit?

Many questions are raised from such a small apparatus…


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