This is the tale of Jimmy the Drone; Mr. UAV to you. He started life as any other drone does, made in some sweatshop overseas so that his future owners could save $20 that they’d never miss anyways.
I first met Jimmy when he arrived at my place of business. I had him shipped there because I was too impatient to have to wait until I got home to meet him. Though he was shy at first I could tell we were going to be fast friends. Jimmy was my first and only drone. I was never really interested in drones until I saw Jimmy on the Internet. He answered my advertisement of “Single white male seeks unmanned aerial vehicle for day and night photography. Sleek curves and an ability to GPS navigate your way back required”. He said “Yes, I have a camera with which to photograph both day and night. I have 3-axis gimbal stabilization, a 12 megapixel camera, and can go for 24 minutes on a single charge. I love taking photos and want to see more of your sexy prune self”.
A sign of things to come… A broken body. A broken heart.
The good ol’ days
As the warm summer days went on Jimmy and I were inseparable. If I went on vacation, he came with. If I explored downtown Indianapolis, he tagged along. If I saw an interesting opportunity to take a photo, Jimmy made it happen . With him around people would just come up and start conversations. Everyone just had to find out how someone like me could find a guy like Jimmy. I’d tell them all about how we met online, the money that traded hands (hey, I saved 20 bucks), and how we were so happy together.
While life was good, there were some concerns. Governments started getting involved, trying to tell Jimmy and me how we should act when out in public. There were all these news articles about other drone relationships and how sometimes people and drones were doing stupid things. I used to go anywhere and everywhere with Jimmy, but with each municipality establishing different laws about where we could be, it got so that any time we were out in public I was nervous. Who was going to tell us to stop being together today? Was I allowed to be with Jimmy at this particular park because it was owned by the county rather than the city government? Federal laws already banned Jimmy from their parks. Indianapolis is in the process of banning Jimmy from certain venues. I’m sure other cities will have other laws on their books making it difficult for me to know when I can and can’t be with Jimmy and his talents. This hodgepodge of laws and discrimination were beginning to take its toll. They tried and succeeded at making me register my relationship with drones, and I stopped going out with Jimmy as much as we used to.
The last time I really spent any time with Jimmy was on vacation in Tucson. There is a beautiful mission on the reservation there but I was paranoid about being seen with Jimmy. The reservation constitutes yet another government with who knows what kind of laws on the books about drones. But I really wanted photos of that place so I sent an email via the mission’s web site asking if Jimmy and I could visit. While they agreed we could be there, they urged us to stay at the mission and not venture off into the reservation as that was surely not allowed. True to form, within 5 minutes of having Jimmy in the air taking pictures of the mission, the reservation police showed up and told me I couldn’t be there and that Jimmy had to be grounded. I showed them the correspondence I had with the mission, and they made an exception because I had asked. I’m sure they didn’t have to. I’m sure they could have said the mission didn’t have authority over what was allowed on the reservation and brought it down. But these two police officers were gentleman and let Jimmy and me finish our work there. Still, the mood was set. The relationship Jimmy and I had built was going to be fraught with stress, having to justify ourselves for the foreseeable future.
Complacency Breeds Disaster
For those who don’t know, we just bought a house. It’s located on a highly wooded lot. While it has many amenities it does need some work done on the roof and gutters. I had a plan to take some before-and-after pictures along with video so that I could do a review of the company we hired to fix the issues.
What happened next was just stupidity. I knew that I was asking Jimmy to do some dangerous work. I never wanted to risk his life before. He was my friend after all and what other idiots do with their drones is not what I was ever going to do with mine, or so I thought. But, my concern about the number of trees was dismissed internally with a “Aww, it’ll be alright”. To top off the stupid I was experiencing, when I had Jimmy in the air I was getting confused with the controls because I was decidedly out of practice. Society had won: I hadn’t been around Jimmy for such a stretch that we were now essentially strangers. Add to that all the branches overhanging the roof, and I was just asking him to fail. Well, fail he did, spectacularly.
While getting closer to the house and trying to navigate under a branch, I hit the wrong control and pushed Jimmy’s blades right into the branch I was trying to avoid. In a horrible crunching sound my friend spun out of control, landed upside down at my feet, and began to sputter and spin uncontrollably. I hurriedly shut off his power so that I could assess the damage. The camera had snapped off the gimbal neck, 3 of his blades had disintegrated, and the gimbal support was broken as well. I was embarrassed, angry, sad, and frustrated with myself for so lazily and without thought putting Jimmy in that position. I had become the idiot drone pilot.
I went online again to look at drones. This time though it wasn’t to purchase another, but to fix my friend and bring new life and meaning into what had been a great relationship. As I write this, the parts needed to bring ol’ Jim back to life are en route. Hopefully part 2 will bring a happy ending to this sad sad story.