Droning on and on

“I don’t want nobody to have the ability to take my picture whenever they please.” grumbled Bill Tenney at the dining table. He was having a business lunch with his fellow salesmen at the Caterpillar dealership outside Macon, Georgia. They’d often found themselves sitting in this self-same spot, usually two or three times a week while having the special. The special being meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy with some peas on the side.

“We’re talkin ’bout toys from the hobby shop, Billy. My boy ain’t some government type pryin inta everbodies beeswax, he’s just takin pichers a the trees and streams an all. How can you complain bout that?” replied Jason Evers, Tenney’s longtime friend. He’d helped Bill get his job at the Caterpillar store fifteen years ago. They did a lot of things together; the bowling league, little league and probably other leagues as well. Small town southerners were always big on leagues.

Tenney took a bite of meatloaf and spoke as he chewed. “It don’t seem right, ‘sall I’m sayin. Whatever happened to privacy?” He shook his head and swallowed as their waitress, Dixie Lee Mathers asked if they needed anything. “We doin jes fine, Dixie.” said Tenney, giving her a wink. If you asked Bill what Dixie looked like he’d be hard pressed to answer since his eyes rarely rose above her ample chest. As she moved off to check with other tables, Bill used his phone to take a picture of her fanny as she leaned in on another group of diners.

“You don’t seem to concerned ’bout Dixie’s privacy there, Billy.”

“Aw hell, Jase, I’m jiss takin in the scenery.” grinned Tenney, some ground beef in the corner of his mouth. He had a halo of grease around his lips.

“That’s all my boy’s doin too, y’ole goat.” Jason said, grinning. “I don’t see what you got against those flyin gadgets. Shoot, ever where we go theys a camera lookin at us. Out on the highway, alla the stoplights …and all kinds a people with cameras in they phones.” he smirked.

“Well now, that’s a different story. Those cameras are fer safety an they ain’t flyin through the neighborhoods lookin in peoples windas.”

“What windas?” groaned Jason. “Fer cryin out loud, my boy and his friends ain’t lookin in peoples windas. My boy ain’t no pervert.” Bill Tenney could hear the edge in his friend’s voice.

“Hold on, hold on, Jase. I’m not sayin yer boy is any kinda pervert. But not everybody with these flyin cameras has the good heart yer boy does.” said Bill said in a placating tone.

“Theys a lotta good reasons fer people to use these things. These drones. People use ‘em for mappin, for security, fer checkin on their animals in the field, all kinds of stuff. I was readin about a guy in Arizona uses em to keep an eye out for them Mezkins comin cross the border. They got lots a problems down there with them illegals stealin and messin with their animals and bringin in dope an all. And theys people like my boy who use em to take artistic pichers and movies. Lookin at wildlife an alla that.”

“Sure, Sure, Jase, I get it. I’m just sayin that there’s gonna be some a the people who’re low lifes and they’re gonna use em in screwed up ways.”

“The same could be said a guns. Are you fer takin’ away our right to have guns because a few people use ‘em for evil purpose?”

“A course not. But we gotta constitutional right to have guns. Constitution don’t say nothin ’bout no heli-widgets.”

“Don’t say nothin about snappin pichers a Dixie’s ass either.” grumbled Jason.

Bill looked abashed. “Shoot. I guess you got me on that one, old dog. And maybe I spoke up too soon. Maybe I shoulda thought about it some more afore I said somethin’. Din meanna rile y’all up there Jase. I know you got a good boy there an he wooden do nuthin untowards. If cattlemen are usin’ these things then they must be somethin’ to ‘em.”

“Well, alright then… You done with them fries?” asked Jason. Bill pushed his plate towards his friend.


Of the many issues of the moment,  little remote controlled drones are becomming a hot topic, and not because of any incidents or misuses. A few little towns are even moving to ban them –although they aren’t getting very far and there’s strong suspicion that it’s being done for publicity reasons. The primary stumbling block is a fear of loss of privacy, and the issue is always raised by people unaware of the contributions the remotely controlled (or unmanned) aerial platforms are making. The FAA is considering a sky filled with drones, envisioning clogged airways with collisions being a daily issue, replete with property damage and loss of life. Why this has become a concern is curious, since civilian remote controlled aircraft have been around since the 1940s. As a ten year old, I was playing with gas powered models pulled by glow plug fired .049 cubic inch motors and controlled by heavy steel encased remotes. The remote control units, like all electronics these days have become lighter and much more capable –more channels to control the models and greater control and safety to boot. No one seemed to pay much attention to these things until they were given the name “drones.”

I suspect that the word drone elicits visions of the fixed wing drones being used by military (and now police) for airborne surveillance and even attack, but these little devices are not as capable or equipped. Neither do most of them have the range to go farther than a kilometer or so, the majority limited to under a thousand feet from the operator. In spite of their ability to take aloft small, extreme-sports cameras with 1080p resolution, they can’t read the names off of golf balls from two miles up or mount a missile attack. It’s like trying to relate a toddler’s Big Wheel trike to a Rolls Royce. They share certain attributes, like wheels,  but that’s as far as it goes.

Certainly I’m on the side of the drone users –because I own a few of these little fellas and I enjoy flying them around and taking aerial photo with them. I have yet to run into anyone who uses their drones for any clandestine purposes. They use them mostly as I do, for getting a different perspective to take photos with, and spying on individuals is nowhere on the list. They get used to catch great action shots of sports, going places unapproachable on foot or even with a full sized helicopter, no less an airplane. So the people with concerns are making compaints about a problem that doesn’t exist. Besides, these little aircraft are noisy and the idea of enough stealth to permit them to secretly spy on someone is laughable at best. Plus that, they’re rather expensive and operators tend to be extremely cautious about where and how they fly their investment.

I’m more confused than concerned by the complaints I’ve seen written about. It feels like the complainers live in a different world than I do, in which things are entirely different and alien to what I know to be reality. In the world we live in today, are little remote control airplanes really the kind of issue we want government focused on? Aren’t there more important issues to be dealt with? I think there are, but then, I’m just a gimp with a blog.

For some examples of non-military/non-police use of drones, please click here. It’s interesting stuff.