Hay: It’s best to drone alone

So last week I droned on about the sad and sordid tale of my attempt to get a drone to fly. One of those remote controlled little helicopter units with the attached camera and 117 pages of instructions. As I mentioned, it flew like a brick.

Maybe it’s me, I thought. Admittedly, I’ve never been very good with remote control hardware. Or software for that matter, even though I’m never sure what “software” actually is.

For example, when I was a kid I got a car race set for Christmas one year. This was back when “software” meant a nice cashmere sweater, and “computers” were a group of people who added things up. My race car set was the way-back version of “remote control” in that each of the two cars had a controller with a trigger and a big wire that attached to the figure eight track. I could hardly ever get all the way around the track with my race car before spinning out. Everyone, including my dog Bim could beat me.

Much later, when my friend Jim and I built a little remote controlled airplane from a cheap Revell Model Kit, guess who crashed it. It could have been on account of we spent three days gluing the kit together in a closed room and before we left the house we were already flying. There’s a reason they call that airplane fabric glue “dope.”

And later still, as non-grownup adults, some of my buddies had those super cool actual remote controlled cars. Those cars were about the size of a breadbox with tiny powerful engines and big knobby wheels and the operator held a wireless controller about the size of a smaller breadbox. They would take these cars out to safe, open spaces like fields or parking lots or busy neighborhood streets and zoom around at about 100 miles an hour. Guess who always crashed.

Whenever one of my friends had a temporary lapse in judgment and handed me the controls to his outrageously expensive and powerful remote controlled model car, I would very carefully thumb the sticks and press the buttons and immediately roar off at full speed in exactly the wrong direction, running smack into the nearest tree, parked car or the neighbor’s cat.

And of course, I’ve mentioned before how TV remotes, car door clickers and other wireless devices of “control” basically take on a mind of their own or refuse to work at all as soon as I pick them up. I’m thinking I have some sort of counter-operative force field emanating from my extremities. Come to think of it, that might also explain why my desktop computer is always on the fritz.

So it was with some significant trepidation that I went out recently to unsuccessfully fly that drone. After another week or so of downloading new programs, drone operating instructions and the latest version of Pac-Man I finally did something right. I took the whole kit and kaboodle back to the store.

The drone manufacturer, however, wasn’t keen on replacing the faulty flying machine. “Pack it up and send it 10,000 kms across the world and we’ll “troubleshoot it,” they said. “Pack this,” I said. The new drone worked perfectly.

Yes, it’s true. One clear windless morning the other day, I ventured out on my own to a safe place and launched that quadcopter into the big Alberta skies. Very impressive flying if I do say so myself. And it will be even better when I figure how to land the bloody thing.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.

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