My collaborator is made of plastic and has four limbs in the shape of a lower case x. Its name is Mavic, a portable and powerful cutting-edge drone with a 3-axis gimbal, 4K camera, and maximum transmission range of seven kilometers. It looks like an aerial crab and it feels sturdy, yet somehow also fragile, and instead of claws it has four propellers. From above it takes pictures and videos—hundreds, thousands of them. Through these image relays, Mavic has the ability to see land in entirely new ways.
Mavic has a set of predetermined modes that are built into all drones. One of them is called “active track,” which pilots can use to make the drone chase cars, cyclists, skaters, and other action figures. I had less exhilarating plans. Although active track seemed like an easy experiment, the drone turned out to be more stubborn than I had anticipated. I learned quite early that for all its sophistication, Mavic and I had to patiently work together—like any other collaboration. I had trouble establishing myself as a target when the goal of the exercise seemed to be to recognize one another. That was the point of departure, the start of all the failed attempts, the tutorial-watching, the trials and errors. I couldn’t hide the spontaneous excitement when I looked back into the camera and saw Mavic—following me.