Robotics and reporting wars

The use of drones to document the devastation of the civil war in Syria

The Syrian city of Aleppo, one of the oldest in the world (it was already inhabited in 5000 BC and was an important center in the Babylonian and Assyrian era) was the terrible theater of an epoch-making change also in the journalistic field. Specifically, the use of drones to document the devastation left by the civil war, an otherwise invisible reality for the international community.

In the autumn of 2016, videos shot by broadcaster Russia Today and its fleet of drones showed the eastern part of the city razed to the ground by the bombing of Damascus, while the Syrian ministry of tourism showed images of the western part of Aleppo, practically intact, edited to the ‘Game of Thrones’ soundtrack. Two separate truths: one showing an ongoing tragedy, the other depicting an authoritarian regime’s attempt to hide it from the world.

The technology which showcased Aleppo’s reality has an epigone in the New York Times report published on October 14, 2016 which compares the devastation recorded by the drones to 1945 Berlin and Grozny in 2000. And the media’s attention for the importance of robotics in the field of information has been constantly growing ever since, becoming a real trend in 2017.

Besides the New York Times, it is worth mentioning the case of broadcaster CNN that has created a new unit specialized in the use of drones for news.

But the use of drones is not limited to war zones. Many television networks are testing the use of these devices to record images of areas that are not easily accessible due to the effects of natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes or, more simply, to document roadside accidents and traffic jams.