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Why the first drone I flew will be the last

March 8, 2018

Last week I flew a drone for the first time.  No, not an aircraft-sized instrument of death operated from a trailer in Arizona that inflicts oblivion upon targets in Syria and Afghanistan. My drone was about the size of an Amazon delivery parcel. It had four rotors, and sounded like a swarm of angry hornets. It was made in China.

It actually belonged to a friend in Borneo, who fired it up for my benefit. As the little gremlin rose into the sky, its camera pointed back at us, my first thought was “I want one!”. I usually react that way when I see a sexy gadget.

I returned control to my friend before I landed it in his swimming pool. Fifteen minutes later I started thinking what I might use it for. I have no buddies in prison who are in need a mobile phone or a stash of drugs, so that’s out. Nor do I have any desire to buzz a Boeing 747 on approach to Heathrow.

But I do play golf, so I’m quite attracted to the idea of bringing it to the golf course so that it can hover over me while I tee off – a great way to improve my swing. On a slow day, I could also send it a couple of holes ahead to drop a polite note on the comatose players who are holding everyone up asking them to get a bloody move on. It would also help me to find my ball. And there’s nothing in the rules of golf saying that you can’t use drone-assisted distance checking.

Then there are the neighbours. I’m not a committed busybody, but it would be quite fun to fly over a few gardens on a summer’s day to see what they’re up to. Well once, anyway, before the injunction arrives.

If I was a disaster fetishist, I could use it to investigate the cause of wailing sirens in nearby streets. I could also fly it to the top of a tree in order to persuade a stranded cat to return to earth, thus saving the owners the effort of calling the fire brigade.

I jest of course. In truth, I really have no sensible reason to acquire a drone. I’m not into wildlife photography. Nor can I think of any other legal and peaceful application that wouldn’t cause acute annoyance to others.

I certainly wouldn’t take kindly to other people’s drones either. In our road, people are always buying stuff online, especially the family who live opposite me, for whom we regularly operate as a last-lap courier service. The prospect of a drone carrying an Amazon package past our front window five times a day would not appeal. And that’s just one house. Imagine a constant stream of angry hornets flying up and down quiet streets frightening the leaf blowers.

In fact, if I was American, even though I would vote to repeal the Second Amendment – the one that entitles you to bear arms – I would make an exception for any weapon that could down a drone, without harming humans of course.

I don’t seriously believe that we’re moving towards a time when drones are routinely used to watch our every move, as in Dave Eggars’ The Circle. But once our police and local councils start using them to catch us doing naughty things – such as allowing our dogs to defecate in the park without picking up the mess – as they surely will, who knows what other liberties they will take?

So all things considered, I’m unlikely to be getting a drone, even though my birthday is rapidly approaching. And anyone contemplating flying one near my house should be aware that I have purchased a catapult, and I’m in active discussions with friends in Beijing who think they can help me procure a device that sends a unidirectional electromagnetic pulse powerful enough to fry the electronics of any device that comes within a hundred feet of the Royston residence.

If that fails, I’ll just have to wait until someone invents an affordable suicide drone – a little bugger that takes out anything with propellers hovering nearby. Come to think of it, that would be quite a useful device for deterring squirrels from making whoopee in our loft.

I reluctantly accept that drones can be quite useful in an emergency – to send the paramedics the right blood should I cut my arm off with a chainsaw, for example. Or to whizz over an ampoule of anti-venom in the event that I get bitten by a poisonous snake while brushing up the leaves (which is a really silly thought given that we live in suburban Surrey and I rarely brush up leaves).

But should anyone be generous enough to buy me one, I can confidently predict that within a couple of months it would join all the other cool but ultimately useless gadgets languishing in my garage, such as the bread-maker and the espresso machine.

If it had some versatility, such as being able to mow the lawn in upside-down mode, I might think differently. But encountering a device as lethal as Boadicea’s chariot racing up and down the garden would probably give the dog a heart attack, which would be somewhat counterproductive.

I’d probably be better off getting a step counter. At least that might have a few months of useful life before my resulting knee and hip replacements rendered it redundant.

Which leads me to the rather gloomy conclusion that most gadgets have unintended consequences.

From → Social, Travel, UK

  1. Raconteur Royston on great form I see. Maybe we should rename “Gadgets” as “Bad Gets” that very get bad then go and live in the garage. And taking your point about local councils further…..maybe they could programme these pesky whirlygigs to pick up dog poo – be a lot more cost effective than snooping the pooping then attempted recouping of costs by fines!

    • Excellent idea. I would thereby be spared bringing two Tesco bags (5p a pop) every time I take the dog for a walk! S

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