What comes to mind when someone mentions the word Drone? Beautiful views of the mountains? Mapping archaeological ruins or inspecting buildings? Inspecting a bomb or chemical fire that’s too dangerous for people to be around? Rescue missions to deliver survival supplies to a person stranded on a cliff? Probably not. People usually cringe and think of their creepy neighbor spying on them all day every day, or a robotic futuristic helicopter/airplane comes to mind, firing missiles at everything that moves.
Which camp are you in? Let me know in the comments below.
DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus Quadcopter
Sure, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus I have doesn’t have a very catchy or descriptive name, but how about calling it something generic, like a quadcopter.
What about just “remote controlled helicopter”. That’s exactly what it is – it takes off straight up, I’m watching it, controlling it, and telling it exactly where to go. There’s no need for anybody to get nervous about something called a “drone” flying around because they already think nothing good ever comes of them. Nearly everything in the news about drones puts them in bad light, and alludes to spying, shady uses, unknown motives, and unpredictable actions. That’s just plain wrong!
One Of A Kind Aerial Photographs
I love to use my quadcopter to capture the beautiful sights I see around the world from the air. Places that have never been photographed or videoed from the air. Places that are remote and unknown. Places that are too low for conventional aerial photography, too high for a selfie-stick, and too tight for a helicopter. Events that are spontaneous, and impossible to plan for and bring a film crew in for.
It is completely awe-inspiring when I capture a photo from an angle that has never been seen before. The videos are breathtaking, like you’re soaring through the air with the perfect view. That’s what motivates me to continue exploring and fly more.
“Always bring your camera.” I love that motto!
For a while I was working with General Atomics, the company famous for the Predator unmanned airplane, and we would run into this same problem every single day. The news portrayed their airplanes as “killing drones” because somehow they were under the impression that they operated by some teenager drawing a course on an Etch-a-sketch, loading up a few thousand-pound bombs, and sending it off to get some vengeance. You’ve gotta admit, that’s pretty far-fetched, but I talked to people all the time who had a very similar idea to that in their minds.
Without an actual person sitting in the airplane, they were certain that an evil robot computer was just telling it where to go and dropping bombs on innocent people because it was a dumb “drone”. It’s not a robot in the sky! In reality, it’s the exact same thing as a normal airplane, except the pilot is on the ground, either nearby it, or on the other side of the world connected to it by satellites. General Atomics tried calling it an unmanned airplane, UAV – unmanned aerial vehicle, RPV – remotely-piloted vehicle, and so on, but people just wanted to blab about drones. It was sickening, because the media was promoting fear because that was a better seller for them than simply calling it a boring name like “UAV.”
Sure, there are plenty of actual drones out there. And please, call them drones. They follow pre-programmed, automated directions – the definition of a drone. A quadcopter is rarely that. Except the ones that Amazon is planning on using to deliver packages to someone’s doorstep in 15 minutes. By all means, call those drones until the cows come home. I seriously doubt that a real person will be flying each delivery drone once their deliveries get popular.
There are consumer quadcopters can be programmed to fly a certain path by themselves, but that’s a rarely-used function that’s difficult to configure correctly. It’s certainly not accurate enough on the average quadcopter system to do much good spying, or much harm unless used irresponsibly.
It’s a pity that anything that flies is only known to other people as a drone. Countless times I’ve tried to describe flying my Phantom without using the “D word,” as a quadcopter, a small helicopter (in Spanish), or even a remote-controlled airplane. It never fails to baffle them, until some young chap who watches a lot of TV chimes in with the answer, “drone!” Everyone’s eyes light up and they immediately ask if I’m taking pictures of them. No! Why would I care about taking selfies of other random people? I hardly take selfies of myself!
I’m not ignoring the fact that some people have done some pretty stupid things with quadcopters. But is it really the first time someone has tried to fly a model airplane or throw a camera over the fence at the white house or over crowds of people? Of course pilots should stay away from airports and respect other people’s privacy, but it’s not the first time someone has pointed a camera over their neighbor’s backyard fence to see what’s going on. Sure, it may make it a little easier to snoop around people from a distance. But, should they outlaw guns just because they make it easier to kill something or someone from a distance?
I once heard this 70 year-old guy complaining to his buddy the same age that he had never seen one of those things (a quadcopter), but he hated them. He didn’t want nobody spying on him when he was off with his girl on the beach somewhere. That’s the sort of riff I hear all the time. He’s a dreamer – on all accounts!
Quadcopters Aren’t Meant For Spying
To clear up the spying-from-the-air question, what sort of detail do you get taking a cellphone picture of Taylor Swift on stage at her 1989 concert tour? You can probably barely tell there’s a person standing there. It’s nearly the same if someone is actually trying to use a cheapo quadcopter to spy on you. The camera can’t zoom in on anything without moving closer to it.
It’s not like you’re used to seeing in the movies with a spy camera zooming in on someone’s forehead. And even if someone were spying on you, they certainly wouldn’t be directly overhead where you could see them. They would be off to the side, peeking over trees or buildings. Seriously, I learned that from Spy vs. Spy comic books when I was like 8.
I Hate The Word Drone
I would love to abolish the word drone from people’s minds, but I’m stuck with the cards that are dealt. On this website I use the word “drone” alongside “quadcopter” so my readers will know what I’m talking about. A donut shop wouldn’t get much business selling “sweet breads with a hole in the middle” instead of donuts. I don’t get the chance to explain myself to the people who find my articles from Google or from my friends.
Don’t think I’m going soft on ya’ – if this website was just for me, trust me, the D word wouldn’t exist here.
Except to talk about Amazon and their ingenious home-delivery plan – that will probably get built, tested, and put into use in India and China before the United States FAA ever makes up their mind on how to write a law that can govern unmanned and unpiloted flight in the US airspace. Get with it Uncle Sam!
I hope you can see the light and adopt a different name like quadcopter or helicopter than the dreaded Drone word until the future brings us something else to try and find a name for.
What are your opinions? Let me know in the comments below!