Pandemic Drones

Promises and Perils

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Julia M. Hildebrand Eckerd College, USA

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Stephanie Sodero University of Manchester, UK

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When the novel coronavirus moved around the planet in early 2020, reconfiguring, slowing down, or halting everyday mobilities, another transport mode was mobilized: the pandemic drone. We highlight the increasing prominence of this aerial device by surveying international media coverage of pandemic drone use in the spring of 2020. To address a range of pandemic drone affordances and applications, we organize manifold cases under two broad categories: sensing and moving with the pandemic drone. Here we ask: what roles do, and could, drones play during the pandemic? Following the empirical examples and related mobilities research, we theorize the drone versus virus and the drone as virus. As such, the work identifies avenues for mobilities research into pandemic drones as a growing mobility domain. Moreover, in thinking through the pandemic drone, we demonstrate creative extensions of mobilities thinking that bridge biological and technological, as well as media and mobility frameworks when multiple public health and safety crises unfolded and intersected.

Contributor Notes

Julia M. Hildebrand is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Eckerd College, USA. Email:

Stephanie Sodero is a Lecturer in Responses to Climate Crises at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, University of Manchester. Email:

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Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies


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