Regulars and Shorts, Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center

By Dennis Hinkamp

Dronie of Your Ownie.
by Dennis Hinkamp

Have you always wanted to fly, and to be an innovator, a criminal and strict constitutionalist all at the same time? It’s easy; just fly a drone. Packages are available at prices ranging from $35 to $12 million.

Hobbyists always tend to overestimate the importance of their myopic interests, but you can’t open a newsfeed now without seeing something about drones. Nobody really cared until Amazon and Pizza Hut hinted they might start using them for deliveries. Well, that and when a drunken government employee easily breached the White House’s force field of death with a $500 off-the-shelf quadracopter (aka drone).

Sure, it was great when drones were used to kill alleged Pakistani bad guys from a safe distance or catch the random illegal immigrant taking a hike across the impenetrable fence that separates the United State and Mexico, but once they started clogging the friendly skies with pizza and Amazon personal hygiene products, the situation went code red. The Federal Aviation Administra­tion (FAA) woke up from its nap dating back to when the Red Baron and the Hindenburg ruled the skies, and started calling for regulations.

The current regulations for commercial use of drones issued by the FAA require that I tell them how many seats are on my tiny drone and what the medical condition is of my copilot. I am allowed to fly anywhere I want below 400 feet so long as I don’t make any money in the pro­cess. I can take pictures of anything and anyone so long as I don’t sell the photos.

Much like when Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to simply KFC to deemphasize the unpopular “fried” part, small drone fliers like to refer to their evil machines as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems.) I hate the gender awkwardness of “unmanned” and have just reverted to calling it a drone since that is easier for people to understand.

My drone is a quadracopter (four propellers) that carries a camera. It weighs five pounds and can fly on battery power for about 15 minutes. It’s like having a tripod in the sky. When I review the footage, I really do feel like Peter Pan.

Could they be used for evil? Yes, but bad people will always do bad things; they could climb trees, get binoculars, long lenses, strap a GoPro camera to a trained Norwegian Blue parrot or whatever it takes. But really? In the selfie age, who even cares if or what photos of themselves appear on the Internet?

The strict constitutionalists contend that it is my drone, and its use is part of my pursuit of happiness. The stricter constitutionalists say if it flies over my property, I have the right to shoot it down just as if someone where breaking into my house.

I suspect that the privacy advocates are more worried about a drone spotting a couple of cannabis plants in between the tomato rows than they are of being caught wearing Speedos or less in the back yard. You can basically see anything you want all the time nearly for free in the privacy of your dark computer room. Why spend $1,000 on a drone to do it? God bless America, this is why the Internet has flourished.

Dennis Hinkamp does not advocate breaking any laws unless they are really silly laws.

This article was originally published on May 30, 2015.