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Hay's Daze: Leave the dronage to the experts

Let's talk about drones
Harley Hay column

I’ve droned on about UAVs before but that was before the police got involved.  What I mean is, I wrote about drones way back before the RCMP started using them for capturing criminals and finding lost children and surveilling whatever needs to be surveilled. 

Drones, those remote-controlled helicopter-y things that buzz around in the skies like giant mosquitoes, are technically referred to as UAVs or ALBs, which technically stands for “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” and/or “Annoying Little Buggers.”  Obviously, I’m not talking about those really big, airplane sized UAVs that militaries use to spy on adversaries (and blow them up) I mean those buzzing robots that generally have four little spinning blades and are controlled with a hand-held controller containing joy sticks and buttons and dials.

These popular drones can be any size from fitting in the palm of your hand to as big as a suitcase and can be purchased just about anywhere for a few hundred loonies.  But here’s the thing:  they have cameras.  Very good cameras.

Here’s a scenario for you:  say your Rotten Kid has an apartment on the 5th floor and it has a balcony and one day she’s out on said balcony relaxing in her lawn chair reading and enjoying the sunshine and fresh air when she hears an annoying buzzing sound.  It’s getting louder and louder, and suddenly, rising up over her railing not three meters away appears a flying machine.  With a camera pointed at her!

This is a true story, and by the time my RK ran and grabbed a broom to knock that little buzzer out of the sky, it was gone.  Gone to invade the privacy of some other attractive balcony sitter.  No doubt looking for one that’s actually sunbathing, if you get my drift.

As usual, it’s clearly not the machine or the impressive technology that’s at fault with the growing dronage annoyance, it’s the moron holding the controller (expert operators excluded of course).  You might be happy to hear, however, that now most drone operation in Canukland (other than the tiny micro-drones) requires a pilot’s license to go buzzing around the neighborhood.  And you might be surprised to hear that I myself actually have one of those.  Those who know me well are surprised when I say I’ve actually figured out how to more or less operate a TV remote or my Smartphone.  They can’t believe anyone would let me fly a contraption with spinning blades that can roar off at 70 km/h and soar 500 meters high.

But I went to flight school and everything, and actually passed and I carry my pilot’s license in my wallet.  But I don’t carry a drone around anymore to go with it.  I don’t really do much aerial photography and video production anymore and I’m happy to leave the drone buzzing to the young buzzers.

But I do clearly remember the one time in particular that I realized that maybe droning could be a downer.  I launched the drone to get some photos and footage of a manufacturing facility one day and I, um, lost it.  Now this was a sensitive area with a No-Fly Zone that I was careful to stay on the perimeter of, but when you have a “flyaway” it means you no longer have control of your flying machine.  The drone ran out of battery and when it does that, it is programmed to automatically land.

It could have landed smack in the middle of something on the site that would be very bad but the flight gods somehow set it down far away in the snow in the middle of a farmer’s field.  It took me three days to find it, and three months to start breathing again.

So I’ll leave the dronage to the experts, where it belongs.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Reach out to Harley with any thoughts or ideas at