The Body Count

Final Projects

Link to Visualizations


A drone strike is an attack by one or more unmanned combat aerial vehicles, or weaponized commercial unmanned aerial vehicles. Since the turn of the century, most drone strikes have been carried out by the US military in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen using air-to-surface missiles.

According to James Rogers, an academic who studies drone warfare, “There is a big debate out there at the moment about what the best way is to counter these small unmanned combat aerial vehicles, whether they are used by hobbyists causing a bit of a nuisance or in a more sinister manner by a terrorist actor.”

The debate about drone strikes often centers on who has been killed: “militants” or civilians. In the absence of official information, casualty estimates provided by media fill the gap; however, the estimates are incomplete and may significantly undercount the extent of reported civilian deaths. The US government owes the public an accounting of who is really being killed.

The goal of this visualization is to analyze the number of death and casualties of Drone Strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia from 2002 to 2019.


My inspiration for this graph come from here: They have created an interactive timeline from data on drone strikes, and civilian deaths in Pakistan. I ended up creating something different but my starting inspiration was this project.

Materials Used

Tableau An interactive data visualization software

OpenRefine To format the data


The data for the project is from


I started the project by understanding the data. I had the following datasets:

Full database for Afghanistan:

  • Dates
  • Local Area
  • District
  • Province
  • Time
  • Target Type
  • Information on Source
  • Number of Strikes
  • Number of max people killed
  • Number of max civilians killed
  • Number of max children killed
  • Number of max injured people
  • Number of min people killed
  • Number of min civilians killed
  • Number of min children killed
  • Number of min injured people
  • Targeted Groups

Full database for Pakistan:

  • Dates
  • Location
  • Area
  • Number of max people killed
  • Number of max civilians killed
  • Number of max children killed
  • Number of max injured people
  • Number of min people killed
  • Number of min civilians killed
  • Number of min children killed
  • Number of min injured people

Full database for Yemen & Somalia:

  • Year
  • Number of max people killed
  • Number of max civilians killed
  • Number of max children killed
  • Number of max injured people
  • Number of min people killed
  • Number of min civilians killed
  • Number of min children killed
  • Number of min injured people
Fig 1. Raw data for Afghanistan

For an overall analysis, I needed to combine all these datasets together. In OpenRefine, I deleted extra columns from each country and finalized the same data columns for each country. I also added a column for the country itself (Fig 2). I cleaned the data for Afghanistan, and Pakistan for their individual analyses (Fig 3).

Fig 2. Combining data for all four countries together
Fig 3. After Refining Data

The Story

I decided to create a story for my project. I divided the story into 3 parts

  • Analysis of all countries
  • In-depth analysis of Pakistan
  • In-depth analysis of Afghanistan
Cover of the story

For the cover, I used a picture of Afghan Children grazing their sheep. I also added an overview, and a brief description of drone strikes (Fig 5).

Fig 5. Cover of the story
Analysis of all countries

On this page, I wanted to give the viewers an overview of the general situation in these countries, and see if they can find some patterns. I was not able to find anything like this on the internet. People usually consider one country at a time, so I thought doing a combined comparison may be helpful (Fig 6).

This dashboard has the following visualizations:

  • Total number of people killed in each country on a map
  • A stacked bar chart of the total number of people killed in each country since 2002
  • A stacked bar of total maximum people killed, and people injured in each country
  • Total number of children killed in each country
Fig 6. Analysis of all countries
In-depth Analysis of Afghanistan

In this section, I wanted the viewers to see only the numbers for Afghanistan. I tried to use visualizations in a way that makes sense (Fig 7).

The dashboard has five visualizations:

  • A stacked bar for civilian and children killed over the years
  • Maximum & minimum people killed
  • Targeted terrorist groups
  • Districts with the highest number of people killed
  • Deadliest strikes
Fig 7. In-depth analysis of Afghanistan
In-depth Analysis of Pakistan

Following the pattern I used for Afghanistan, I created similar visualizations for Pakistan. There was no information for targeted terrorist groups in Pakistan so I used the data for presidents (Fig 8).

Fig 8. In-depth Analysis of Pakistan
Design Choices

I initially thought about designing a printed poster, but I realized that it will be too much information for a poster. So I decided to go for a story in Tableau. A story that users can easily understand and comprehend.

For colors, I decided to use black as a background and shades of red for the visualizations. Red is also the color of blood. I thought these colors would work well to give the story an intense, and serious look. I used color from flags of each country for their total analysis so that users can differentiate between the countries.

To make the story more compelling, and visually interesting, I added pictures of children from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

UX Testing

I recruited two participants for my user testing. They were Americans aged between 22 and 30 years old. Both already had a good understanding of the problem. One of them is a history student at Columbia University.

I created a scenario, and different tasks and questions for them.


You are interested in understanding drone warfare, and the statistics about these strikes. You want to start a discussion on this topic with your friends, and want to understand it better.


  1. Please look at the story and familiarize yourself with the interface. Feel free to explore it.
  2. Can you determine how many people were killed in Somalia in 2018?
  3. Can you find the deadliest year for Pakistan?
  4. Can you understand the map of the story?
  5. What do you think about the design for the number of children killed in each country?
  6. Can you tell how many children were killed in 2018 in Afghanistan?
  7. Can you tell the deadliest strike for Afghanistan? What city was it?
  8. Can you tell how many civilians were killed in Pakistan in 2017?
  9. What do you think about the overall visualization?
  10. Were you able to understand the visualization?
  11. Did you find the information interesting?
  12. Will you share it with your friends?
  13. Which part is the hardest to understand?
  14. Anything else would you like to add?

Both of my participants really liked the visualization. They appreciated the data, and the visual aspects. They both thought that the data was informative. One of the participants suggested that the visualization can be improved by comparing them with other types of attacks. One participant thought that the map can be further extended to provide pinpoint information about a region in a more effective way.


Some interesting findings from the visualizations are:

  • There is an increase in strikes in Somalia.
  • Deadliest strike in Afghanistan killed 513 people
  • The most targeted group in Afghanistan are the Taliban
  • 340 civilians died in Afghanistan in 2019, which is a very high number


It was initially hard to understand them and drag and drop different sheets in a dashboard and later to use that dashboard for the story. But after creating the first dashboard, it got easier. I think I am very good at the software now.

The project was very close to my heart, and I really wanted to create something which can help everyone understand the situation in these countries. I am hoping visualizations like this can help us start the much-needed conversation on drone strikes.

Future Direction

I spent a lot of time creating this visualization. Most of the visualization is static so for my next steps I would want to add more interactivity. I want to give users more control over the visualizations. I will also like to add geographic information, and the history of these regions.

Link to Visualizations

var divElement = document.getElementById(‘viz1576445675759’); var vizElement = divElement.getElementsByTagName(‘object’)[0];’916px’;’891px’; var scriptElement = document.createElement(‘script’); scriptElement.src = ‘’; vizElement.parentNode.insertBefore(scriptElement, vizElement);