Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Selfie Drones

This was the drone that crashed on the White House grounds,
the DJI Phantom, which is apparently one of the more popular
brands and models -- even parodied on South Park. 
A small consumer recreational "drone" helicopter crashed on the White House grounds early Monday morning, setting off a new storm of security concerns in Washington. The Secret Service has determined the drone did not pose a serious threat, but the White House was locked down for a time, and the details of the incident are still being investigated.

Oh, how I wish it would turn out to be some cyclist making selfie videos while out for a ride, but considering that the incident happened around 3:00 am, that's probably unlikely. (Though it does beg the question, what the hell was somebody doing with a drone outside the White House at 3:00 am?)

Nevertheless, it seemed like a good way to break into the topic of recreational drones, which are becoming increasingly popular with our self-obsessed culture -- taking selfie videos to a new level. That's something these drones are great at, that is, until they're not. No, it isn't just cyclists who are using them, but if you watch some of the promotional videos from the companies that make them, it's pretty clear that cyclists are one of the prime consumer targets. And if you go do a quick search on the internet for "drone crash" you'll get an idea of what a danger these things pose. Last year, one of these things crashed into a woman running in a triathlon, sending her to the hospital to have a piece of rotor removed from her scalp and to get stitches. Others have crashed into crowds of people at outdoor concerts, sports, and other events.

The feature-laden, $1150 Hexo+ drone -
GoPro Camera not included.
As these drones become cheaper and easier to use, we're likely to see more and more of them -- zipping along over our heads, following after cyclists, skaters, and others -- and crashing into bystanders when they lose their GPS signals, or lose contact with their controllers.

I figure as these things become more popular, we're bound to see more irresponsible usage of them. It's inevitable. Let's face it. If there's one thing that many people suck at, it's understanding the concept of "other people" -- as in, the fact that they exist. I think people's obsession with their smart phones is strong evidence of that.

Just a couple of days before the White House incident, I was reading an article on BikeRadar about all the great new advances in drones, designed to appeal to cyclists and other athletes. "If one of your goals for 2015 is to shoot better riding videos, you're in luck," the article proclaims. Then it goes on to show all the latest feature-laden drones and other products introduced at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. This stuff is really hot right now. Not to mention annoying. And potentially dangerous in the hands of idiots.

The crash of the drone in Washington is bound to get some lawmakers' attention, so I wouldn't be surprised if one of the results is that we'll eventually see some regulations on these things. More restrictions and regulations from Washington are not something I get thrilled about, but it'll probably happen. The idiots make it inevitable.


  1. Let's imagine you wrote this from the stand point of a car driver and replaced the word drone with cyclist. Bit of a reach but I hope you see what I'm saying; "the danger they pose", "more and more of them" "crashing in to people", "annoying", idiots make it inevitable" and not to mention the single case touted as evidence of how this is going to harm you and your family very soon.

    Not so much a pop at you, it just annoys me when the media gets hold of a story and take isolated incidents as evidence the world is going to hell in a handcart. How many times do you take a car journey and get held up by a cyclist? Not many I'm sure but the media would have you believe the roads are gridlocked due to "those cyclists" running lights and riding recklessly (like I don't see way more car drivers doing stuff like that).

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to this "drone" thing to get boring so we can move on to the next threat of life and liberty. Surely bird flu is due to come back round again soon?

    1. Hi Bod -- I won't take it as a "pop" at me. Thanks. As I mentioned, I don't really like the idea of more restrictions and regulations -- I just think it's bound to be the reaction, especially after the WH incident. My main complaint with the things is that they are just another way for people to obsess over themselves while ignoring everyone around them.

  2. Remember when these things were called Radio Controlled Airplanes & Helicopters? Granted that they have evolved, but that doesn't make them the equivalent of the military grade vessels that earned the moniker.