COLUMN: In defence of drones

Don't be afraid – they're a hit-and-crash affair for users, anyway.

For those of you terrified every time you hear the word drone in the media, I’m going to drone on with some revelations.

Last Sunday, you might have collapsed at the thought that no fewer than 36 users of radio-controlled quadcopters had invaded the Cloverdale Agriplex.

The buzzing, the built-in cameras, the 3D goggles… they might have pushed you over the edge thinking Big Brother had taken control, ready to vapourize your privacy.

Forget the paranoia for a moment.

These were folks from the West Coast Drone Racing League, who held the start of their first indoor series, all in the safety of a net that enveloped the oval inside the building.

Drones – a rather inaccurate term, as these things are controlled by the user at all times – are (usually) expensive, finicky, fragile and unreliable toys.

But they’re also a lot of fun.

In 2015, for a few months, I took my turn at learning to fly one, then a second, then a third. They’re all dead now.

My enthusiasm lasted long enough to say that I experienced them as a bad pilot, and might return to the business when they get better and cheaper.

They never lasted terribly long in flight, were hard to direct at a distance and tended to need spare propellers at the time of purchase.

Control – remember, these were fairly basic models – was best described as a hit-and-crash affair.

Being able to turn one around in mid-air and fly it towards you can best be described as theoretical.

One of them had a basic screen on the hand controller and a camera on the drone itself.

The screen worked properly for about a day and I never got the hang of using that before I had to revert to seat-of-the-pants flying.

In contrast, the West Coast pilots are kitted out with modern 3D viewers, their eyeballs essentially inside the drone as it’s flying. I’ve never experienced it myself, but it looks like fun.

No cash, though. Maybe next decade.

Canada has laxer rules about drone use than the U.S., where fear of the unknown is abundant.

In the U.S., you need to register your drone if it weighs more .55 lbs. or two sticks of butter. It says so on the FAA registration website, which currently has a 20-per-cent off holiday sale. Order now!

Transport Canada, on the other hand, suggests you be responsible.

Dos: Fly your drone with charged batteries, in daylight, away from private property, etc.

Don’ts: Fly your drone over 90 metres up, or where you can’t see it, or where you may endanger or distract someone or damage someone’s property.

In other words, like when I tell my cats in the morning when I leave the house: Don’t do anything stupid.

Boaz Joseph is a photojournalist with The Leader.

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