Drones might be seen as a cool way to get packages from Amazon Prime without having to talk to anybody, but they could lead to a dystopian police state. At least, that's one what scifi short film is suggesting.
Skywatch, a short film nearing its fundraising goal on Kickstarter, is all about what would happen if drones really were the industry standing for shipping items across the country. And the answer is... an evil corporation will try to kill you. The film, which stars Uriah Shelton from Girl Meets World and Zach Callison from Steven Universe, is about two hackers who uncover a massive corporate conspiracy while messing with some delivery drones. You can watch the teaser below.
Director Colin Levy, who previously worked on Pixar films like Inside Out and Finding Dory, said he came up with the idea back in 2013, when drones were first being touted as a possible delivery system. Since then, we've seen tons of innovations in drone technology, as well as Amazon, UPS, and Google's plans for eventual delivery by drone (although UPS kind of screwed up its latest marketing promo).
Everybody knows by now that the delivery drone ambitions of companies like FedEx and UPS amount to marketing stunts. But what happens when those stunts don't go quite as planned? UPS knows because it recently crashed a delivery drone in front of a bunch of reporters.
Levy said he thinks it's only a matter of time before drones become part of everyday life, and the film is just his idea of what bad things could happen as a result.
"It's pretty clear to me at least, especially since Amazon posted that video a couple years back, that it's really right around the corner," Levy told io9. "That's just a world that's hard to envision in one sense. There's a lot of inherent issues with that reality, but I'd just like to explore that and dream about what that could be."
Drones have faced several hurdles in growing from a popular-yet-still-somewhat-niche past time into an everyday floating appliance. At least 20 states have passed drone laws in the past couple of years, which typically are designed to protect privacy rights and limit drone use by law enforcement. Luckily for Google and Amazon, drone delivery is getting away with a bit more than the average drone-based business operation. Last year, new FAA regulations went into effect that restrict commercial use of drones, but drone delivery is largely exempt from those rules, because those drones won't require human operators.
There are plenty of concerns that come with drone delivery. Not only do drones enable (or downright encourage) surveillance, but they also run the risk of automating thousands of jobs. Levy told io9 that the short film is more focused on the surveillance part rather than robots taking our jobs, but he said it also addresses our growing dependency on the convenience of home delivery, and how that can limit our engagement with the outside world.
"We are talking about the sacrifices we make for convenience," Levy said. "This level of convenience can turn the populous into passive sort of couch potatoes. If you don't have to go to the corner store or the grocery or pick anything up in person, why would you? It just encourages you to stay indoors, stay in your nice safe bin, and I guess it discourages connection with other human beings."
If Skywatch reaches its fundraising goal, Levy plans to have it out by December.