Mostly whimsical reflections on life
The nonprofit group SOAR touts Oregon as the nascent commercial drone capital of America. Meanwhile, an Audi TV ad characterizes drones as creepy sci-fi movie creatures. What are we getting ourselves into?
With all the talk about technology shaping our everyday lives, drones may be the next technology that shapes our collective lives. And Oregonians may be at ground zero of the drone revolution as there are federal test ranges in Tillamook, Pendleton and the Warm Springs Reservation. Are we the smart ones or the new Roswell?
Some critics blame U.S. deployment of drones to kill terrorist bad guys in the Middle East as a root cause of even more radical Islamic extremism. Drones are to blame, critics contend, for the surprising Houthis insurgency in Yemen, where airborne bomb-throwers with trigger fingers thousands of miles away have made the local populace a little jumpy.
Despite that, capitalists, farmers, kids and backyard hobbyists are dreaming up a world of new commercial drone applications, from monitoring crops to home delivery to photo-bombing exclusive Hollywood parties.
An Idaho farmer uses a drone to survey his 1,300-acre spread where he grows legumes and wheat. Backers of unmanned aircraft say the information can help farmers make smarter decisions about pesticide use and irrigation and detect crop disease earlier.
Realtors see advantages in drone use to show potential buyers a neighborhood or a community while still sitting in an office. Other obvious and useful applications would be in fighting fires, checking long pipelines in hard-to-reach areas and tracking birds in flight.
Movie-makers and videographers are using drones to capture spectacular, you-are-there visuals.
Jeff Bezos of Amazon foresees the day when you order something online and a drone delivers it to your home – minus the FedEx guy’s knock on the door. The drone could fly through an open window and plop it on the kitchen counter.
The delivery to your door part is where the Audi TV ad kicks in. The ad reprises Alfred Hitchcock’s gathering swarm of birds as it depicts “killer” drones hovering menacingly just above everyone’s rooftops. The driver of an Audi A6 averts disaster by using the car’s navigation system to maneuver two drones into a head-on collision as car and driver speed off.
The ad pricks the just-under-the-surface anxiety most people have about technology. You can be giddy one moment about the potential of a better life and then edge into a dark, depressive state over what could go wrong that could ruin your day.
People have worried about the introduction of telephones, televisions and dying machines. Once a very long time ago, people may have clucked about the potholes that lie ahead for the wheel.
Unlike the Apple Watch, drones strike a different chord. Drones don’t strap not your wrist. They wobble around overhead, with flashing lights, looking like a large mechanical spider.
For people in the Middle East with the bad luck to live next door to a jihadist, the faint sound of a drone must strike a moment of fear, especially if it’s followed by a loud explosion. People closer to home may have a similar panic attack when the pilot of an airliner has to make a sudden evasive move to miss a drone flying too high and in the wrong place.
As President Obama discovered when a drone scoured across the White House lawn, seemingly no place is off limits to this new technology. We will have eyes everywhere.
We may not care about email or Facebook invasions, but we may object to the neighbors peeking at us from a drone while sunbathing nude in the backyard. The potential snooping could make porta potty peeping seem pedestrian.
Fears or not, drones appear ineluctable, like ocean tides and fruit flies. They may come in wave after wave and seem as pesky.
We will be wowed at first by some wondrous deeds. But pity the first time you run into a drone and try to get a driver’s license and insurance card.