On an ordinary day, if you called me a gun-loving Luddite with a strong libertarian streak, I’d say that you either didn’t know me very well, or that you were spoiling for a fight. Today however is no ordinary day. For 24 hours my own personal Jesus is a man called Philip Steel – an American who loves shotguns, hates technology and gives the impression he believes the US Government is staffed with devils and perverts.
Mr Steel lives in Deer Trail, Colorado; a town home to around 500 citizens and America’s first rodeo. This afternoon, a law he proposed is being voted on by the council. Should it pass, Deer Trail will grant residents something that could encourage your correspondent to pack up and purchase a 12-gauge. The right to hunt drones. Specifically, the right to shoot down any unmanned aerial vehicle hovering under 1,000ft.
Look up, if you haven’t a ceiling overhead, and imagine a sky perforated with small drones. By 2015, US congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to open the skies to unmanned aircraft (though progress is behind schedule). By that same date, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has claimed a fleet of delivery drones will be under wing. It’s possible if not probable that within the decade our peripheral vision will be scattered with graceless whizzing machines – a dystopic replacement for the bird species that a report published yesterday says are in terminal decline.
All forms of travel have a difficult birth, one attended by Luddites and sceptics. In time, these people are invariably made to look ridiculous. Referring to railroad-cars, the 19th Century hermit and author Henry Thoreau whined “I will not have my eyes put out and my ears spoiled by its smoke and steam and hissing”. So it is with greater-than-usual resignation to obsolescence that I object to low-flying drones.
Personally I don’t mind being watched so long as I can’t tell I’m being watched, which is why CCTV cameras hardly bother me, along with Governmental snooping over web-use. But combine surveillance with conspicuousness and the blood starts to simmer. Google founder Eric Schmidt put it like this. “How would you feel”, he asked, “if your neighbour went and bought a commercial observation drone that…just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?”
Not happy, Mr Schmidt. In fact I presume I’d feel at least an iota as unhappy as the Yemenis and Pakistanis who have lived with military drones over their heads for close to a decade. At the moment, the law lags behind the development of commercial drones. If it doesn’t catch up soon, please forward any and all correspondence to Deer Trail, Colorado, where I’ll be yammering and shooting at the sky.