Model airplanes were all the rage when I was a boy. People would spend hours assembling replicas of World War II bombers or historic planes like The Spirit of St. Louis. The really ambitious kids (usually high school age) put motors on their models and flew them by radio control.
I was reminded of this because of two events in the news recently. First, one of the places where people used to buy radio-controlled planes — Radio Shack — filed for bankruptcy. That’s really sad. First we lost record stores, then book stores and now we are losing electronic supply stores. What’s next, newsstands?
The second recent event that brought the old radio-controlled model airplanes to mind is the flight of a drone onto the grounds of the White House. The President was in India at the time and no damage was done, but the incident further tarnished the reputation of the Secret Service.
Drones first came to the attention of the American public when the military began using them in Pakistan and Afghanistan to target terrorists. But they have been around for years. The civilian versions are usually equipped with GPS and camera and can be programmed to fly a specific course. Prices have dropped in recent years and you can buy a good one now for under $100.
The most popular type of drone is what’s know as a Quad Copter because it has four propellers. They can fly for miles from the controller. And that makes them perfect for search and rescue operations, farming applications and traffic reports. In fact, I would not be surprised if drones replace helicopters for traffic reports in the very near future. They can be sent airborne quickly and moved around with ease. The cameras today are high definition, and they cost a tiny fraction of what a helicopter with a pilot and camera crew cost.
Drones are the future of delivery as well. Amazon announced recently that they want to deliver packages by drone. The FAA is not cool with that yet, but the day will come. I certainly can see newspaper home delivery services using drones in the future.
Yes, it seems likely that the air will be full of drones in the next 20 years. It’s not flying cars, but there is something Jetsonian about drones. Oh sure, there may be problems with abuses like Peeping Tom Drones and Police Drones. There may even be drones falling out of the sky on to people. But every new technology has bugs to be worked out. Hell, we’re still working out the bugs in the Internet after more than 20 years. I have confidence that drones will become commonplace, along with self-driving cars.
Speaking of self-driving cars — that seems to have a lot of potential for providing a way for the elderly to get to the supermarket or the drugstore without endangering anyone. New technology does not allow these autonomous cars to get close enough to another object to hit it. Soon, the Little Old Lady From Pasadena may be hitting the road in something made by Google or Apple. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind that myself. Old age is going to be fun after all!