Droning On and On

Unmanned aerial drones — also called ‘unmanned aerial vehicles‘ or UAV’s — have become the weapon of choice in today’s theatre of modern warfare. Why send soldiers into battle and risk loss of life when a highly-trained technologist can sit safely hundreds or thousands of miles from danger, and demolish a target as easily as zapping aliens in a video game? Furthermore, the precision allowed by a drone attack means that concentrated force can be applied to very small targets with surgical accuracy.

Instead of blowing up an area the size of a city block or small village — approximately the same area taken up by most of today’s SUV’s — a military officer can choose and hit much smaller targets, such as a pool table or Smart car. (Common sense says that we should avoid both; we were all warned about the dangers of playing pool in “The Music Man” and elementary physics tells us that Smart cars will lose in any collision contest with a vehicle bigger than a Volkswagen, and become tiny airborne coffins.) Almost like a sniper, a drone can destroy a selected, small bull’s-eye while leaving surrounding objects unharmed.

Early success has led to rapid growth in the industry, and as history teaches us, superior weaponry leads to big dollar business, which tends to fuel more research and development. While currently the drone business is aimed, so to speak, at nations doing battle with other nations, and the elimination of terrorists, I predict that the personal drone industry will soon eclipse that of the big boys of the multinational scene.

As imagined by the New Yorker cartoonist Mick Stevens in the drawing above, we will soon be able to purchase personal drones to fulfill our needs. Your spouse is cheating? Send in a drone. Your boss is harrassing you? Send in a drone. There’s a bully at your school? Send in two or three drones and kill him slowly. Is the second bassoonist a little flat in the Beethoven concerto? Send in a microdrone.

The “Occupy Wall Street” protests have become a more global phenomenon recently, but many participants seem unable to articulate reasons why they are doing what they are doing. Personal drones could circle the area of interest, and listen to conversations on the ground. If, during a televised interview with, say Geraldo Rivera, the protester uttered something like, “Corporations aren’t fair!” or “Capitalism is greedy and the devil’s playground!” a drone could plummet like an angry coconut and take the offender out. Audience participation software could decide if Rivera would also be eliminated.

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