Image: Dust

Watching Mackenzie Sheppard’s short Donny the Drone, you might assume that the title character (voiced by Guy Pearce) would become a killing machine soon after becoming self-aware. But Donny ain’t Skynet, and every sentient robot doesn’t necessarily have Judgment Day on its mind. Or does it?

The film opens in 2022, as Donny—a mapping drone who “woke up” after a midair collision with a bird, and now speaks with the lulling cadence of a new age guru—is being presented with a “Person of the Year” award. Since his transformation, he explains, he’s devoted himself to being an ambassador for machines’ ability to help people. But despite Donny’s big award, not everybody embraces his philosophy—or his vision for humanity’s future.

We’ve seen “the trouble with sentient machines” done many times before, but Donny the Drone offers a thoughtful new take on that well-trod scifi territory. Pearce, recently seen playing android and AI innovator Peter Weyland in Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, is a particularly apt choice to voice the drone who gains a soul—and a slippery agenda along with it.