Drones in Popular Culture Are Now All Around Us

Popular culture can be defined as the introduction of popular cultural norms being introduced and targeted via mass media, usually to a younger generation. It is commonly referred to as pop culture.  The use of drones has evolved over the past few years quickly, and now, anyone with a couple hundred dollars can own, and legally operate their very own unmanned vehicle. As accessible as drones have become to the regular guy, drones have infiltrated pop culture, and in a big way.  From TV, to movies, to video games and virtual reality, drones in popular culture are everywhere. They are used to create media, they are flown on-air, they are joked about by late-night TV hosts, they are discussed philosophically on community blogs, and they are even analyzed for economic impact on CNN- becoming mainstream news stories. There doesn’t seem to be a fact about drones that hasn’t been explored.

We are going to examine the pop culture phenomenon that drones have become, and shed some light by illustrating how this tiny little unmanned aircraft has become such a huge part of our everyday lives.

Drones in Television
Drones on TV

Have you ever watched an episode of the ABC sitcom, Modern Family? Chances are, if you’ve watched this show regularly, you’ve seen a couple of drone-themed episodes. In fact, there are at least 3 storylines that have featured the use of a drone in this award winning sitcom.

From Gloria being spied on by a mysterious drone while she swims in her backyard, to Claire and Phil using their real estate drone to spy on their son, Luke, who isn’t where he is supposed to be after school, this TV show has embraced the use of drones and integrated it into the fabric of their show. They’ve also addressed some of the legal implications that drones face.

The recently cancelled show, Mythbusters, from the Discovery Channel often featured drones in production, and regularly used drones in opening shots for the show.

Turn on any late-night TV show, and you’ll probably catch a joke about some new exciting use for drones, like Amazon delivery services in the opening monologue. You can also search YouTube and find a clip of Jimmy Fallon having a drone race with Tyler Perry in the Tonight Show studio.

The Science Channel aired a show called “Droned” last year, focused on the growing commercial drone industry. It chronicles the business of aerial filming company, Pigeon Vision, as they design drones for notable celebrities.

Celebrities that Own Drones

While drones are becoming more mainstream and affordable to mere mortals like us, there is a growing list of celebrities that own drones also. That list includes:

  • Chris Angel
  • Tyler Perry
  • Martha Stewart
  • Jamie Hyneman and Adam Salvage (of Mythbusters- they liked drones so much on their show that they purchased their own)
  • Katie Linendoll
  • Jorja Fox
  • Nick Lachey
  • Rupert Murdoch

More than likely, a celebrity’s drone is going to be a bit more “tricked-out” than the average person’s drone, and come with an astronomical price tag.  This just goes to prove how influential drone technology has become in American Pop Culture.

Drones, Sports and the Super Bowl

In 2015, the National Football League (NFL) became the first major sport to secure Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to film using drones.

While the limits of this permission are stringent, this is a huge step for other sports that are filmed and televised in the advent of drones as a medium to capture aerial shots. Currently, drones are not permitted to fly over people, so scenic shots must be captured when there is no one present. Drone pilots must also submit written safety and flight plans a minimum of 3 days before filming. Drones also cannot be flown over 100 mph.

Currently, the NFL can’t film actual footage of games, rather, the NFL can use drones to capture footage to enhance filmmaking, and to tell a story for segments produced before the live game.

So, the footage you saw of 300 drones flying in formation for Lady GaGa’s Halftime Super Bowl was actually a bit of a trick, and filmed about a week before the live show happened due to limitations and restrictions placed on drone use by the FAA. However, it was the first time that 300 drones were used in synchronization and televised.

Drones in Video Games

Drones are also a hot commodity in the video game world as well. Some games have garnered attention because they make a political statement about drone warfare (and the military roots of drone use), and some have garnered attention because they actually come with a drone for you to fly. Either way, both have made an impact, and the introduction of drone use into video games is quickly gaining momentum.

The game “Kill Box” refers to the dimensional space used by drone operators in war situations used to target kills. The game offers a two-player option, one being the target, and one being the drone operator. This game is a commentary on moral issue of waging war from a distance.

Here are some more video games that come with a usable drone modeled after the digital drones used in the games.

  • Homefront: The Revolution Goliath Edition- this drone comes with remote control, working lights, and 6-wheel suspension.
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist Paladin Multi-Mission Aircraft Edition- this game is equipped with a custom hobby-grade UAV modeled after the aircraft in the game.

The video game, Ghost Recon Wildlands, depicts the use of a drone as a tool of the game to help players scout enemies. The drone gives players a view from above the surrounding areas, and allows players to tag enemies. By all accounts, this video game drone is much like a virtual reality game, and feels very much like the real thing.

The assumption that drones in video games is going to grow exponentially over the coming years is one that we’d call a safe bet. Video games are often an imitation of real life, with a fantasy twist, so if you aren’t ready to fly an actual drone, chances are that there is a video game on the market that will allow you to fly a drone virtually.

Final thoughts

It is amazing how technology has become such an integral part of society and pop culture, but it isn’t hard to imagine the possibilities now that drones have become such a regular part of our everyday lives.

Want to know more about drones? Simply turn on the TV, watch a movie, do a Google search, or fire up your X-Box or PlayStation. It is safe to say that a wealth of information and entertainment awaits you.

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