Here Come the Drones

"Nano drone"
“Nano drone”

“The latest experimental drones include a robot with bird-like grasping appendages, and some that form a robo-swarm or flock. . . .  [Researchers are] currently working on robots that can ‘perch’ on trees and other objects, enabling drones to become ‘mobile networks of sensors’.”

Now, I’m all for technology and I love Sci-Fi, but I think it may be time to sound the alarm about DRONES.

Maybe “Nature is inspiring the design of the next generation of drones” (“Flying Robots,” BBC), but I’m getting worried-er and worried-er.

This NPR series (with links) is almost enough to make me close the blinds and grab a slingshot.

Yes, we have our wonderful winged “predators” soaring majestically over other countries killing bad guys (ethics anyone?), and there are “cameras in the sky” that bring us all the News that “Breaks” (celebrities, traffic and sporting events).

But now we have people taking drones on trails, up the mountains, into the forest. . . (in that tree over there. . .see?!).

NBC says, “federal regulations allow the use of hobby aircraft only below 400 feet in remote areas away from any airport and only for non-commercial purposes.”  I don’t find that comforting at all.

And we’re not just talking about a Go Pro “watch me film everything with a silly camera on my head” thingy.

My wife and I were recently walking in a favorite State Park.  I looked up the trail and saw something hovering about head level.  Sure enough, a guy was playing with his latest toy drone.  Right on the trail!  We had to wait until he landed the humming “buzzard” before we could pass.  I was muttering for 10 minutes about it.  Kinda wrecked the peaceful experience of hiking.  “Honey, I wonder why there aren’t any birds, deer or squirrels around today?”

I’m fine with drones used for Good Purposes, like search and rescue.  But companies are clammoring to get more in the air and the “aerial photography” craze is only beginning, presenting us with some troubling prospects and warnings.  Listen to this London researcher’s view of flying robots designed from Nature:

“It’s important that the applications benefit humanity.  We must take the responsibility to built robots that are beneficial to society and used in an ethical and positive way.”

Sounds hopeful.  But that’s the rub.  Is giving up privacy and peace what we have to look forward to?  Maybe the bombing drones are coming home to roost; they’re coming to photo bomb us!  Pretty soon everyone will have to have their own personal drone to play “spy” on all the rest of us or zip around the oceans.  And, what about the birds?  Anyone thought of that?  What about the joy of looking up to watch birds fly overhead (“hey, are those REAL birds?”) or enjoying the view of a canyon or mountain or sunset without some buzzing piece of expensive sky-turd zooming by?  Am I being alarmist?  Oh yes!  Ring-ring; buzz-buzz; chime-chime. . .

I think someone needs to design a Drone-Killer.  You know, a nice “toy” missile or anti-drone to knock these contraptions out of the clear blue, bird-loving sky.  Maybe we could give prizes to those who come up with the most inventive way to smack ’em down!

Until someone does design a “Clean Sky Drone-Destroyer,” I will simply exercise my right to walk in a park or forest or my back yard as a Drone-Free Zone, using whatever I can throw or swing or loft to swat the pesky micro-mosquito machines.

Stone the drones!


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