Dronestagram Reveals the 'Real Places' Hit by U.S. Drones
A Yemeni town struck by a U.S. drone on Oct. 18. This Google Maps satellite image may show the town months to years before the drone strike occurred.
Google Maps' satellite view offers an easy way to virtually visit hard-to-reach spots around the world, from tropical islands to Antarctica. Now, a freelance designer is using the service to take viewers on a more serious tour. James Brindle posts satellite images of the towns in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that U.S. and U.K. drones recently hit, revealing towns as they were before the attacks.
On Nov. 8, the morning after the U.S. election, Brindle posted an image of a Yemeni village that the U.S. struck the night before. That and other Dronestagram pictures come from a Google flyover, which may have occurred a few years ago, so they don't show damage from the drone strikes.
Instead, Brindle intends to remind viewers that the targeted sites are ordinary "towns, villages, junctions and roads," he wrote on his website. "They are the names of places where people live and work, where there are families and schools."
Brindle publishes the satellite images in an Instagram feed, which he's named Dronestagram. He also maintains a Dronestagram Tumblr. Some of the images include data on the number of people killed and injured in the attack, the names of the al Qaeda targets and whether civilians may have died.
Most of Dronestagram's data come from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a London-based nonprofit, Brindle said. According to its website, the bureau gets its information from government, academic and news reports.
Dronestegram's images may not show the exact spot a drone strike hit, as that information is often unavailable. But most of the images should capture locations "within a few kilometers" of the strike, Brindle said.
Brindle hopes to expand Dronestagram to include drone use by other governments, such as Israel and Turkey. He's also looking for other sources beyond the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and a few other databases he has found.