DUCK!


(The Dutch are training eagles to hunt down drones. It sounds like a good idea.)

There are days when you get to fly and days when you are running for your life.

Recently I had an opportunity to learn a new skill – flying a drone. As a life long nerd, I was a little over confident about this new gadget. I’d watched several people fly their drones and while I never “took the controls,” it looked like something I could manage.

We’ve had a few remote control toys in our house over the years. There was the programmable robot, the helicopter with the tiny camera that could only be flown indoors. Once you figured out which control was what, it was fun to fly it around the house, avoiding the ceiling fan and sending the dogs running for cover.

But a full size drone is a whole different level of complexity. At first, safely on beginner mode, I managed to do a half-way decent job. I flew the drone a handful of times, getting progressively more cocky about my ability.

Until I accidentally triggered some mysterious setting I call “turn on your master.”

In this setting, the drone no longer has any regard for GPS, direction, velocity, my life, or that of it’s tiny spinning rotors. Its rational brain is replaced by a Viking berserker mixed with HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Why it even has this setting is beyond me.

For over an hour the drone ignored all my signals, flying sideways when I told it to go up, tilting wildly when I tried to land it, jogging across the pavement as I tried to shut it off. Twice it trimmed leaves on tree branches, and more than once I had to take cover as it began hunting me down.

The day I triggered the evil drone setting I was, of course, being observed (at a safe distance) by a bunch of guys who I know found this entire episode both hilarious and confirmation that girls should not play with boy toys.

Fortunately for all involved and the cause of feminism, I have discovered how to turn off the evil drone setting, and am back to safe flying - in deserted areas. And I’m scheduled to take the classes required these days to fly a drone around.

But to be honest, I still don’t completely trust this thing. After all, I know now that the little spinning berserker is only a switch away.


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