Adam Harvey likes his privacy—and drones are infringing on it.
The 31-year-old artist, based in New York City, is skeptical of the unmanned military aircrafts, which have sparked controversy in recent years due to their potential for civilian casualties and use as domestic surveillance tools. Armed with thermal-imaging cameras, drones can effectively target a subject’s heat signature and lock onto it. They can even see through clothing.
“It’s a very invasive technology,” Harvey told The Daily Beast. “I wanted to find something to protect against it.”
He chose fashion as a medium. “Stealth Wear,” a new clothing range made in collaboration with designer Johanna Bloomfield, offers protection from thermal-imaging surveillance used by drones. The garments are made with a lightweight, flexible metallized fabric that uses fibers to reflect heat and conceal the wearer’s thermal signature. They are also lined with silk, which contributes to their flowy effect when worn.
“Artistically I wanted it to be an appealing garment that made sense as something that could be worn,” Harvey said. “It’s a future-ready type garment, but it does have a practical application today.”
The collection includes two Muslim-inspired pieces: a burqa and hijab, a hoodie, and a cotton T-shirt with a thermally reflexive drone print (“to illustrate the concept and get a piece of the technology,” Harvey said). The burqa and hijab are intended to evoke the Middle East, where drones are the most prevalent, but are designed to be worn in the United States.
The designs were exhibited at Primitive London in January and are available for purchase at its online shop, but Harvey plans to sell the pieces directly soon. The drone-proof items come with hefty price tags: £315 ($487.45) for the hoodie, £370 ($561.99) for the scarf, and £1,500 ($2278.35) for the burqa. The drone T-shirt—which does not have anti-drone capabilities—costs £35 ($45.58).
The idea for the project emerged from Harvey’s research on thermal imaging. Fascinated by its use in weaponry systems and drone operations, he purchased a thermal camera, ran a couple of tests, and quickly discovered that metal effectively blocked the pictures. “It’s a very simple, very analog solution to a rather complicated problem,” he said.
Harvey’s other projects also address the notion of privacy. CV Dazzle, his master’s thesis at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, offers camouflage from face detection, and Camoflash, an anti-paparazzi clutch, protects attacks from cameras with an automatic flash.
Responses to Stealth Wear so far have been positive. While the garments are made for civilian use, Harvey has been flooded with orders from military manufacturers, including people conducting operations in Afghanistan, who requested custom pieces to be designed.
“People see it as technology they can use in their own way,” Harvey said. “It interests people on the far right as much as it interests people on the far left. Ultra-conservatives see it as anti-government and ultra-liberals see it as anti-military.”