The team behind Brighton’s road markings and double yellow lines had a slightly unusual remit last week – to create a lifesize outline of a Reaper drone on Brighton’s Madeira Drive.

The giant image – which crosses the pavement, cycle track and roadway – could be easily missed on the ground. But viewed from the terraces above the road, one can really appreciate its size and scale.

“I wanted to give a physical sense of how big they are,” says James Bridle, the artist behind the project. “You don’t really understand until you see something like this. I built an Airfix model of one but I had no sense of scale.”

Bridle had been aware of military drones for the past ten years. They have been used in towns and villages in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen by the UK and US military – both for surveillance and missile attacks.

They were in the news last week after it was revealed that some drone attacks are now being controlled from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, as opposed to the US base in Nevada which previously co-ordinated operations.

“The terror of the drone is not necessarily in the objects themselves but what they promote and enable,” says Bridle, who really started to examine the new technology five years ago.

“The military make the perfectly valid point that they save troops and airmen going into battle but they promote different types of wars.

“The drones are designed to operate in areas with civilian populations and can be used for extra-legal assassinations which couldn’t be performed without the assistance of technology.

“They can stay up in the air for two days at a time, meaning they can perform better than a human pilot. It brings up a whole raft of questions about technology.”

This is the third drone silhouette Bridle has created, having previously marked one out in a car park near his London studio in January 2012, and another in Istanbul in October.

And he has expanded his examination of drone warfare with another project, Dronestagram, which uses the internet to post locations of drone strikes in Asia and the Middle East.

This Brighton drone has been painted in a bright chroma key green.

“It is the colour used when filming using a green screen,” says Bridle, referring to the modern method by which alien landscapes, monsters or even weather maps can be created in a studio.

“This shade of green is distinct from most human tones – it is an unnatural colour. It relates to the technology of the future.”

Worldwide, the controversy surrounding drones continues. A UN special rapporteur on human rights has condemned the CIA’s use of drones on civilians in Pakistan following secret visits on the ground in March.

And in February a US defence department study found drone pilots suffer post traumatic stress after operations to the same rate as pilots of manned aircraft.

Meanwhile a plan to introduce a US medal to honour drone pilots – which would rank higher than the Purple Heart awarded to troops injured in battle – has been the subject of an online petition and criticism from groups such as the Veterans Of Foreign Wars.

“For me, this is about how people understand technology and how it is used as a tool to allow things to happen without as much debate and critical attention as it should have,” says Bridle.

“I think of drones as prosthetics of the network – they are out there, operating remotely through computers. Through examining them, we can examine our world.”

  • Under The Shadow Of The Drone is free to see at Madeira Drive, 500m east of Brighton Wheel, until Sunday, May 26, as part of Brighton Festival.