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E.D. Films, 2023

15 minutes


Sean Buckelew

Reading Time:

3 minutes

📷 : Used with permission, B&B Pictures

DroneSolatium Mysterium (KKCUB6QA8KN9QZSR)
00:00 / 03:09


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Thought-provoking movies and TV shows


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Movies and TV shows with great visual effects

Reba Chaisson


Drone is an animated short film by Sean Buckelew about a drone that grows a conscience.

With the use of artificial intelligence (AI), a drone, dubbed “Newton,” is presented at a CIA press briefing to announce AI-enhanced drones as new military hardware. Demonstrating its capabilities during a livestream in front of the audience, the press secretary engages in a pleasant conversation with Newton, indicating the drone is ready to show what it can do. Things go awry when the drone fires a missile into an empty building, but then verbally acknowledges it committed a grave error when it detects that a person was killed in the explosion. Feeling guilty, the drone vows to “never inflict pain and suffering on anyone again,” and people around the country embrace him for it.

Buckelew does such an exquisite job of presenting the drone as self-aware, that you are likely to find yourself referring to it by its name or pronoun. The drone is presented not as an “it,” but as an object personified with human emotions of happiness, sadness, and even guilt. It makes me wonder to what degree AI will eventually make us feel emotionally close to inanimate objects, beyond the guitars we play or the cars we keep in our garage.


Drone is both a funny and important film with astounding graphics that presents racially and ethnically diverse, lifelike characters, who smoke and use social media on their smartphones. It is not only a joy to watch, but it imparts lessons about our social and political realities in the age of livestreaming and government arrogance. The political fallout for the drone’s mishap provides a glimpse into what happens behind the scenes when things do not go as planned, and agencies and leaders are embarrassed by what transpires in full view of the public. Drone also helps us understand how an outcome, even a tragic one, can be twisted into a pretzel to justify staying the course. The rationalizations make it clear that handshakes and signed contracts occur long before Newton and his cousins get their first bolt.

We are a long way from the days when robots looked like painted cardboard boxes with eyes, or even when they were made of stiff metal, like “C3PO” and “R2D2” of Star Wars fame. They now resemble objects we have been in awe of, such as cars, mobile phones, and yes, airplanes. This is the first step to feeling a kinship or connection to robots, as they gradually begin to fit into our world. Giving them names and adding AI to put them in conversation with us normalizes them as belonging in our space. And who knows? Maybe, eventually, we will feel as if we need them there.

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