Drones. They’re scary, they’re used to spy on people, and can fire deadly missiles. Rajeev Basu is exploring their potential for advertising, and even art.

Basu is an interactive artist in Boulder, Colo. Working with several friends and colleagues, he designed a web application that allows users to paint up a rendered drone (it looks something like the Predator model) and paste it into the image of a location drawn from Google’s Street View. Basu’s collaborators created their own, and they range from one that carries ads for Coca-Cola to a camouflage design that flies over a virtual Central Park.

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The web can be found at Mr. Drones, and it’s set up to look like an online shop. There’s also a companion site, Drones of New York, showcasing various designs. Basu told Discovery News that it’s a natural extension of the technology, and that he isn’t the first to note that drones have more than military applications. “People are doing stuff at MIT, he said, “like the synchronized drone dances.”

Advertising is just one aspect of it, he said. “The drones imagined could be used for whatever they wanted. What’s interesting is that most of the drones they imagined were fun or whimsical… Like Kyle Platts ‘John Lennon Memorial drone’ that circles the block where he was shot. Or Antonio Ladrillo’s ‘Guide drone’, that welcomes visitors to Coney Island’s Astroland.”

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Drones are one of those areas that we are still figuring out, at least in terms of how we see them. “People don’t know what to think,” he said. Are they weapons or something else?

Basu’s work is being distributed by the Museum of the Moving Image over the next week, as part of a project called DVD Dead Drop. A visitor inserts a blank DVD-R into a burner built into a museum wall, and gets a piece of digital art — in this case, Basu’s.

Image: Rajeev Basu