Designer Adam Harvey has created a clothing solution to the problem of unmanned surveillance drones: a cropped, shoulder-length hooded cover that hides the individual who wears it. While the “anti-drone hoodie” is a just prototype, it was the central piece of Harvey’s Stealth Wear exhibition in the showcase’s “counter-surveillance fashions.” It took him three years to generate and produce the design. The hoodie is made of silver, which reflects heat, thereby thwarting drones' thermal imagining.
Harvey started his project in 2010 with Camoflash, a handbag that responds to camera flashes from the paparazzi by creating a fuzzy orb of bright white light in place of the individual in the photo. However, he feels that his hooded product is geared toward the future of drone usage: “The kind of person who would wear it really depends on what drones end up being used for. You can imagine everything, from general domestic spying by a government, or more commercial reconnaissance of individuals.”
The “anti-drone hoodie” comes at a time when drone usage is on the rise. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration plans to incorporate more than 20,000 new drones over the next 15 years. They will be used by organizations ranging from law enforcement agencies to private companies. Harvey senses, though, that presently people might not want this accessory yet. “I wouldn’t say many people have a problem being imaged by drones,” he said, “but [the hoodie] imagines that this is a problem and then presents a functional solution.”
The UK is already seeing more uses for drones by integrating mobile phone numbers as a means of identification. Research officer at the Privacy International campaign group Richard Tynan states that drones “can be equipped with things called IMSI-catchers that will work out the mobile phone numbers of any people in a certain area…If police deploy these things for crowd control there’s no issue with them figuring out every single person who’s in there – and their mobile phone numbers.”
However, Tynan notes that anti-surveillance technology might not be effective for drones in the future. “The growth in [civilian counter-surveillance] will be dependent on the kind of work we do here to uncover what surveillance is being used. They will always lag behind in the battle.”
While Harvey's creations have progressed to a form of anti-surveillance, he maintains that “these are primarily fashion items and art items…I’m not trying to make products for survivalists. I would like to introduce this idea to people: that surveillance is not bulletproof. That there are ways to interact with it and there are ways to aestheticise it.”
Regardless of how "fashionable" these pieces might be, they could be very effective in a future where governments rely on drone technology to spy on its own citizens.