Apples and Rutabagas

I’m a member of a number of forums that discuss aspects of multicopters –what many people are calling “drones.” In essence, these are radio controlled aircraft that use the same basic technology that R/C has used for decades, but with a slight twist. They are able to operate autonomously, some more so than others. At this juncture, some of them are able to fly themselves back to their take-off point when something goes awry, for instance, the battery is dangerously depleted or the aircraft has gone outside of the radio’s range limits. It’s called failsafe programming. On the other hand, some aircraft are able to fly entire Phantom06missions without any human involvement, save setting up the mission in advance. GPS waypoints, altitudes at and between the waypoints, and loitering or circling waypoints are programmed into a mission planner and then the aircraft takes off, performs the instructions, and returns to its launch point or lands at a prescribed waypoint without any human control. The majority of multirotor aircraft sold or built fall into the first classification.

hexrotorIt seems that whenever I get involved in a group discussion about computers, sooner or later the discussion will devolve into debating whether the PC or the Apple computer is best. It’s a tiresome argument with neither side ever giving an inch. (Sounds kinda like Congress…) Enter the new age and sure enough, our multirotor discussions invariably will split into a discussion over whether aircraft X is better than aircraft Y. This is as tiresome as the PC vs Apple discussions, but at least the computer debate involves reasonably similar items of comparison. Desktop vs desktop, laptop vs laptop. In the realms of the multirotor, it’s almost unswervably true that the two aircraft being compared and contrasted are not in the same class nor possessed of the same abilities and configuration. About the only similarity is the number of propellers. In essence, it’s like trying to compare an amateur built gyrocopter with a WWII RAF Spitfire. They both have a single propeller, both have a single motor, both carry a single pilot and that’s about where the similarities end.

I don’t know why people feel the need to introduce competition into so many subjects. We argue over beer, cars, computers, smartphones, and uncountable legions of other things with the passion of politics or religion. I sat in my doctor’s waiting room a while back and listened to a pair of patients arguing over which chemotherapy treatment was the best one. If you’d have queried them on the nature of the specific compounds they championed, they wouldn’t be able to tell you what the anticarcinogenic properties were. They wouldn’t know that Bortezomib is a protein inhibitor, for instance. I actually had a difficult time trying to figure out their arguments, pro and con. Most of what they were saying was chemotherapy gibberish.

The Phantom quadcopter is a piece of junk! declared one writer. It only has one flight mode where the APM has up to twelve! It doesn’t even do waypoint navigation!

Wow. It seems to me that this declaration would be the first clue that the comparison was ridiculous. It’s true, what he was saying. The Phantom is a microprocessor controlled device that uses GPS to maintain its position –to stay over a particular spot on the ground at a specific altitude. Autonomous flight is only available for failsafe operations. On the other hand, the APM copter is able to fly with total autonomy and was made with a whole different set of goals than the hobby oriented Phantom. Comparing the two is definitely a case of apples and oranges –actually more like apples and rutabagas when you consider the differences.

LikeThisBut my question is why is it that we assign such weird loyalties to things that we defend them when they need no defending, and become confrontational towards things which are completely non-threatening? Why do a pair of patients argue over which therapy is is better when there isn’t any frame of reference for the discussion? Chemotherapy selection isn’t like choosing a car, yet here are a couple of people going at it showing all the petulance and affront of a girl mockingly telling a guy that size matters.

Do we really need to introduce levels of competition into absolutely everything? Aren’t there any areas of bland acceptance or tolerance? If you ask me, people who’re confrontational are weak minded nincompoops –unlike those of us who never stoop to ad hominem broadsides apropos of nothing.