Time & Drones Map Critique

One of the papers we read for this week The Idea and Image of Historical Time: Interaction Between Design and Digital Humanities discusses the relationship between both digital humanities and design. Scholars are using data visualizations to communicate ideas. With regards to time, Newtonian time is the model we keep in our minds, it is important to make sure we are accurate with our data. Historically, people have used timelines in the form of chronologies. For example, Christians used them for practical matters for knowing when to celebrate Easter (Grafton). Today, chronological time is common in art forms such as monuments, structures, installations, and news articles.

For my final atlas, I am researching how the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or commonly known as drones that can be mapped for humanitarian needs. Civil UAV companies include DJI, Parrot, and 3DRobotics. As of March 2017, more than 770,000 civilian UAVs were registered with the US FAA. Some of these civil uses are for crop surveys, aerial photography, search and rescue, inspection of power lines and pipelines, counting wildlife, delivering medical supplies, detection of illegal hunting, reconnaissance operations, cooperative environment monitoring, border patrol missions, forest fire detection and monitoring, landslide measurement, and crowd monitoring. So for this assignment I wanted to research digital chronologies or data visualizations.

Before doing so, I looked at A Brief History of Drones. In this timeline, I thought that the word brief is very true for this image. It doesn’t go into detail what 2003-present looks like. For example it does not show how drones have been used for anti-poaching or help with disaster relief, such as providing wifi to Puerto Rico or helping locate stranded people in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Also, oil and gas companies use drones to inspect their facilities, power lines, and fuel tanks. Insurance companies use them to verify claims. Throughout my atlas I plan on using time and location for each of my maps.

Drones are also being used for disaster preparedness, such as in Nepal where aerial imagery is limited. UAVs can provide responders with high resolution imagery that can inform preparedness, mitigation, and response efforts. In this specific project, 3D maps are the final result.

The map I will be critiquing is simple, but is able to give information to the audience. The Verge and the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College partnered to collect data on commercial exemptions the FAA grants in 2015. Effective December 21, 2015, all UAV’s must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. They created a data visualization chart because of so many exemptions being issued. The audience of the data visualization would be people who fly UAV’s or are interested in them. As someone who is registered with the FAA, I find it interesting to search by all of the reasons why people need to fly their drones. The data visualization was made with D3.js and the data comes directly from the FAA’s database (which was made open source). It is housed at the bottom of an article about drone exemptions. I was interested to see that the largest percentage of exemptions was issued for photography and manufacturing. The two critiques that I have for this chart is that it gives you an ‘all option’ and ‘other option’. It is hard to understand what other could be accounted for and how all does not reach 100%? It is possible that the data is flawed, or they did not know what to do with certain data.

For my own prototype of one of the maps for my atlas, combining my idea of making humanitarian drones visible and this data visualization timeline (above) by month in the year 2015, I will be able to show for what reasons drones are being used.  I started with a timeline of some of the data that I received, then used symbols instead of buttons to symbolize each of the areas. Since this prototype seemed too simple, I imagine this is what the table of contents will look like for my atlas. From here I continued to move forward and figure out how I can use maps to tell stories.

I felt after making this first map, what was missing was storytelling that I have found from each of the articles I took my data from. Making each news story visible is part of my project, so in addition I created a storytelling interactive map using Story Map JS and Mapbox to create the style of what I want my map to look like. In Story Map JS, the map you create is similar to a timeline, you can scroll through the content while moving to different points on the map or you can click on single points to find out more about that area. I find this map is more successful in telling the stories of each of the articles.


Going forward, I hope to modify the style of the map and add more data.


See presentation link below: