Time to throw out the lingering pile of Christmas gift catalogs that have flooded the mailbox and formed a seismically challenged tower on the end of the kitchen counter.
Among the oddities ranging from Star Wars everything to portable wine chillers (home or office!), the most conspicuous item was a mistletoe drone. A tiny quadcopter with a dangling sprig of romance-inducing parasite. The catalog offered the happy opportunity to buy them by the half dozen to spark up that magic moment at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Imagine a squadron hovering in perfect, steady, semi-silent formation above your tipsy guests.
I decided to mull over the question of whether this was a brilliant innovation or further evidence of the decline of the West while taking in a blazing winter sunset on my second floor back porch. Just at the moment of the sun’s disappearance below the tree line, a low buzzing attracted my attention. Too cold for cicadas, what the…and then it appeared between the inky tangle of the silhouettes of the pecan trees. A black drone about 18 inches in diameter. It had running lights, red at port and green at starboard, and it hovered about twenty feet away from the railings, perfectly still in the calm, cold air.
It apparently became bored with my astonished gaping at it and circled around the trees to depart for places unknown.
Obviously the Christmas haul from some adolescent up the block.
One of my students has already treated me to the spectacle of the use of this new tool. I had given a problem involving a large block of derelict historic buildings along the River Walk, partly as a challenge to see how the students would go about measuring places they had no easy access to and for which they had no maps, plans, or other documents. They were working in teams and I checked up on them periodically during the week we were taking for the measuring exercise.
I came upon one of the more enterprising of them and found him gazing heavenward with a remote control in his hands. Then the buzzing. I was afraid to look up for confirmation, but there it was, a nice shiny little ship with a camera suspended from its, um, thorax.
The earthbound pilot grinned and said, “Dad gave it to me for my birthday! Ain’t it the bomb?” I must admit the first time I saw one I imagined it as a miniature munitions delivery device. Where will it end? Well, at the recent high-tech confab in Las Vegas, a Chinese company unveiled a drone two-seater, big enough to take one’s voyeurism directly to the treetops, instead of viewed on a screen.
- Michael Guarino