Collaboration with the Royal College of Art

Project Daedalus worked with the Royal College of Art’s MA in Design Interactions, Andy Miah of the University of Salford, Abandon Normal Devices and Marshmallow Laser Feast, to discover what the next generation of designers thought about the use of drones. We provided 4 DJI Phantom drones for the students to use, with an open brief asking students to explore a performance that engaged fully with the technology and considered audience experience.

The workshop took place over an intense three days, beginning with a theoretical introduction to drones and safety principles of working with drones. The second day covered fundamentals of using code and electronics, with the aim of building a series of circuits using the Arduino platform.

One of their projects experimented with using facial expressions to control the drone’s flight, while other projects explored the idea of giving drones a temperament or personality. Building on the idea that drones are becoming increasingly autonomous, one such project explored drones as meaningful others and the kinds of relationships we might form with these new, mobile objects. The designers wondered whether an artificially intelligent life drone might develop behaviours that may be similar to the way in which how biological species evolve and learn.

Another project explored the many connotations of the word ‘drone’, its different applications and what meaning it may have for different people, from the use in the military to the musical genre of drone music.

A fourth project explored the disruption of society by thousands of personal drones all flying around undertaking tasks for people, considering the risks associated with this mobile network and the possible compromise to freedom. The project interrogated the view of drones as ‘liberating,’ instead imagining a world where our desire to use them leads to increasing restrictions on our mobility or disincentives to move around at all.

Through this collaboration, Project Daedalus gained an insight into some of the design challenges arising from a world where drones occupy a large part of our domestic spaces. Working with the designers of the future and their imagined scenarios highlighted how crucial it will be to have a network of expertise underpinning the utilization of drones for creative endeavours. But we were also made aware of the complexity involved in establishing this base of knowledge, as creative projects are by nature highly individual. We concluded that a modular and open source approach to drones offers the best chance to fulfil their creative and societal potential.

You can see the original BRIEF that was given to the students, along with the WORKSHOP OVERVIEW, which may help in running your own brief-led drone and Arduino lab events.

Next part of toolkit: educational events with schools