Using drones to disrupt the status quo

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Drone-based digital imagery can be used to better estimate the size of large crowds.

From Standing Rock to Syria, drones are being used to hold the powerful to account. Let’s keep it that way.

The civil rights movement and Moore’s law are colliding to transform politics. On the street, smartphone technology is being used to document social life as never before, putting power into the hands of the public and making eyewitnesses of us all.

This same technology, bolted onto cheap and easy-to-fly drones, is also providing a birds-eye view of politics on the ground. Indeed, a recent explosion in the availability and affordability of drones has driven an uptick in their use in support of social movements. In the years since the first use of a drone to document a protest — a 2011 event organized against Russian president Vladimir Putin — they have been a consistent presence at protests in societies where democracy is under threat.

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