Last Sunday, a group of about twenty New Yorkers gathered at the Queens Museum of Art, in Flushing Meadows, the site of the Worlds Fair, to meet Georgi and Nina Tushev, a thirty-something Bulgarian artist duo who were conducting a “Build Your Own Drone Workshop.” This was not a work of performance art. Participants would actually learn “how easy it is to build a drone by yourself,” the couple promised, with good old-fashioned foam core, Stanley knives, and glue. One might wonder whether it’s a good idea to teach residents of one of the most densely populated areas in the world how to build remote control flying machines. It’s right to wonder.
Hobby drones are one of the most powerful and rapidly proliferating DIY technologies. Like any nascent technology, these drones are prone to failure, but most often the error is with the person at the controls. And as some have pointed out after protesters flew a drone towards Angela Merkel at a campaign rally, it doesn’t take much to turn a hobby drone into a nasty weapon.
But the workshop was not, as one might imagine, full of sketchy guys hoping to rain fire on Gotham’s residents. Most of the participants were under the age of ten. They watched wide-eyed as the Tushevs folded, glued and taped a large sheet of foam core into a first-person view (FPV) flying wing (they had already prepared the electronic system, which included a set of goggles to show the pilot what the drone saw, and was made entirely of components purchased on the internet). The main benefit of FPV flying is that you can fly your drone out of eyeshot, since you’re visually “inside” it. Thanks to FPV drones, we get to enjoy spectacular videos like this.