Contemporary fiction continues to incorporate new technology into its plots, and Dan Brown is part of one of the latest trends of authors integrating the use of drones into their stories. Inferno‘s helicopter drone is a deliberate reference to the Renaissance–era designs of Leonardo da Vinci, whose notebooks included designs for various flying machines, including something that approximates a helicopter. In case Dan Brown’s readers miss the visual reference, he makes it explicit in the Boboli Gardens scene of Inferno: “Langdon wondered how the original Renaissance visitors here would have reacted at the sight of a real-life helicopter––a fantastical dream of Italy’s own Leonardo da Vinci––hovering outside the grotto.”
The drone that makes multiple appearances in Brown’s Inferno is part of a growing trend in contemporary fiction—and thrillers in particular—to imagine the usage of drones outside the war theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, a primitive, late 1960s era drone plays a key role in Kurt Andersen’s True Believers (2012). And a fanciful animal-shaped balloon drone reappears periodically in William Gibson’s Zero History (2010).