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Volume 71, issue 1
Geogr. Helv., 71, 19-28, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/gh-71-19-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Power and space in the drone age

Geogr. Helv., 71, 19-28, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/gh-71-19-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Standard article 15 Feb 2016

Standard article | 15 Feb 2016

The Urbanization of drone warfare: policing surplus populations in the dronepolis

Ian G. R. Shaw Ian G. R. Shaw
  • School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, The University of Glasgow, G12 8QQ, Glasgow, UK

Abstract. This paper explores the urbanization of drone warfare and the securitization of the “surplus population”. Defined as a bloc of humanity rendered as structurally unnecessary to a capital-intensive economy, the surplus population is an emerging target for the post-welfare security state. If we now live in an age of a permanent conflict with uncertain geographies, then it is at least partly fueled by this endemic crisis at the heart of the capitalist world system. Of key significance is the contradictory nature of the surplus population. The “security threat” generated by replacing masses of workers with nonhumans is increasingly managed by policing humans with robots, drones, and other apparatuses. In other words, the surplus population is both the outcome and target of contemporary capitalist technics. The emerging “dronification of state violence” across a post-9∕11 battlespace has seen police drones deployed to the urban spaces of cities in Europe and North America. The drone, with its ability to swarm in the streets of densely packed urban environments, crystallizes a more intimate and invasive form of state power. The project of an atmospheric, dronified form of policing not only embodies the technologization of state security but also entrenches the logic of a permanent, urbanized manhunt. The paper concludes by discussing the rise of the dronepolis: the city of the drone.

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This paper explores the urbanization of drone warfare and the targeting of the surplus population. Increasingly, the security threats generated by replacing masses of workers with nonhumans is managed by policing them with robots, drones, and other technical apparatuses. This paper looks at the theoretical implications of using police drones across a post-9/11 battlespace in the cities in Europe and North America. It contends we are witnessing the rise of the dronepolis, the city of the drone.
This paper explores the urbanization of drone warfare and the targeting of the surplus...
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