Why are so many people so ferociously opposed to UAVs? What is it about a couple of grand’s worth of flying plastic and PCBs that grinds so many people’s gears? To be more precise, what the fuck is with all the hate on drones and the people who fly them and why is it getting worse?
One of the most popular types of drone videos on YouTube relate to the harassment of drone fliers. Whether they’re getting hounded by members of the public, law enforcement, park rangers, bikers or neighbourhood crack-heads, more and more perfectly reasonable, perfectly law-abiding quadcopter owners are getting an unacceptable amount of shit aimed at them by people who, typically, do not have a single fucking clue what they’re talking about.
Perhaps the most common type of quad-hater is the not-so-friendly neighbourhood privacy nut. These loonies seem to think that they’re being snooped on. They do not realise that your average consumer UAV would have to be metres away from a person to see any detail on them and, to be honest, these nut-jobs probably don’t care. They also never stop to ask themselves why any self-respecting human would ever want to spy on them. Fully qualified professionals out shooting video for real estate companies, building contractors and even the the government get it in the neck on a regular basis by paranoid idiots convinced that an evil eye-in-the-sky is watching them when they shit. They harangue the pilots, they throw hissy fits and when they feel things aren’t going their way they call the cops who inevitably point out that the drone pilot is doing absolutely nothing wrong.
The most bizarre complaints often come from people out in public. You might be flying your drone at the park, or at a beach and some insecure goon will accuse you of invading their privacy. Even assuming that said person has actually been filmed by the wide angle lens of the drone, they have no right to privacy because they are in a public place. And have you ever noticed how it never enters their heads that there could be someone a block away with a powerful zoom lens on a DSLR photographing or videoing them in way more detail than any drone camera can capture? Seriously, swing by VoyeurWeb (better use a Private tab!) and tell me what the ratio of drone footage to DSLR/zoom footage is. If there’s even one clip shot on a UAV on that entire site I’d be amazed. There are $300 point-and-shoot cameras out there that could video a camel-toe from a mile away and these jokers are worried about an f2.8 lens the size of a pea?
Another common complaint about UAVs is the noise they make. Now admittedly, when they’re taking off, they can sound like a bunch of angry wasps, but how many drone pilots fly at ground level? As soon as a drone’s above about 10m they’re far quieter and once they’re above 20m you can’t hear a damned thing. And even if someone was flying a drone next to someone’s head, it’s still going to be a metric shit-tonne quieter than, say, a pneumatic drill, or an accelerating Harley, or any one of about 5,000 modern inventions that we all encounter on a regular basis without having a fit. Do the same people who complain about noisy drones tap work-men on the shoulder and tell them to shut their concrete saw off because it’s too noisy? No they don’t. Besides, the noisier a drone is, the less useful it is for perving on your wife’s pendulous titties. Because you’ll hear that drone and be like, “Hey baby, some arsehole is spying on your pendulous titties, cover up pronto.” And she’d be like, “Thanks baby.” And you’d be like, “No problemo, you know I always have your welfare in my thoughts.” And she’d be like, “Awww – thanks baby – let’s put the kids to bed early tonight and have a bit of you-and-me time.” So there’s that.
The Space Race
Then there’s the you-can’t-fly-there brigade. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a drone owner on the planet who hasn’t encountered one of these clueless idiots at one point or another. You’ll know really quickly when you have met one of these folks, because “you can’t fly there” will literally be the first words out of their mouths. They watched an episode of a consumer affairs show about drones this one time and that makes them a world expert in airspace regulations. Inevitably they will stick a pointy finger in your face and suggest that you’re breaking the law. You could try talking to them while you’re simultaneously trying to keep your drone in sight (like you’re legally required to do) but they don’t give a shit. They’re endowed with the righteous fury of the myopically obsessed moral crusader (and probably alt-right, black-hating, immigrant-loathing, Israel-loving, Trump-rimming toss-bags too) and nothing you can say or do will divert them from their course.
Don’t Stand So Close to Me
Another common cause of drone-hate is caused simply by proximity and, in this instance, I can see where people are coming from. The law varies around the world, but in most countries you’re required to stay the fuck away from humans. Here in Australia it’s a 30m boundary, which you can reduce to 15m by spending $5000 on an otherwise useless UAV licence. Personally I’ve always respected that distance (and then some) but I know for a fact that some recreational quadcopter fliers don’t think twice about piloting their Mavic over the top of a beach crammed full of families. I’d like to say that it was a small percentage of people that dodged this particular rule, but based on my experience out in the world, I know that’s not true. I see it regularly and have, on one occasion, witnessed a twat fly a Mavic Pro Platinum into a Norfolk Pine which then fell to earth and landed approximately one inch away from a two year old girl’s head. So unfortunately, this one’s on us. Stop flying your goddam quadcopters over the top of people.
Wild Wild Life
Then there’s the wildlife. The critters. The animals. The cetaceans. The ones that walk around on four legs, the ones that fly with wings and the ones that swim in the ocean. For some reason, a consumer drone is considered to be a bigger threat to birds, mammals and marine life than the plastic they’re forced to feed on, the polluted air they’re forced to breath or the effluent they’re forced to swim through. Actual scientific studies have shown that whales and dolphins cannot even hear a drone through the water, let alone be even remotely bothered by one, and yet draconian laws (here in Australia at least) prohibit flying within 300m of them. The marine mammal/drone protection laws here are such a pile of shit that some drone fliers (just ordinary photographers mind you, not learned individuals in white lab coats) are granted exceptions by way of a ‘scientific permit’. As if the humpback whale is going to look up and say, “You know, I was about to beach myself on the shore in a state of distress because a drone flew above me, but now I see that the pilot has a ‘scientific permit’, so I’m completely cool with it.” When it comes to flying near whales, either all drones are bad, or none are. National parks also bring up the subject of disruption to wildlife when enforcing ludicrously over-zealous drone rules. This despite the fact that the only actual science that has been carried out on the subject show that birds couldn’t give two shits about drones. In fact in the rare cases where a bird does take exception to a drone, it’s inevitably the drone that comes off second-best.
Haters Gonna Hate
For the most part, the hate directed towards quadcopters is unwarranted and unnecessary. The Internet and social media has helped create a society awash in people who are convinced that they know more than you (about any given subject) and if they see you flying your Mavic 2 Pro near them they’re happy to prove it. Unfortunately this earthquake of ignorance has swallowed up UAV owners, just like it has with vegans, atheists, millennials, muslims, immigrants, jews, gay people, transgender people, ginger people and those who openly profess a love for the music of Ed Sheeran. Drone fliers are not currently included in research into the most vilified groups in society but I’m willing to bet that if they were they’d be up there with the car-wash owning ginger muslim immigrants.
It seems highly unlikely that the drone-hate situation is likely to improve any time soon. These bozos have made their minds up and nothing is going to persuade them that you’re photographing the sunset and not their wife’s pendulous titties. So what are the coping strategies that quadcopter owners can employ in order to deal with these people? Here are my suggestions.
Firstly, don’t take any shit off them. If you’re flying legally, somewhere you’re perfectly entitled to be, then fucking well fly there. Assuming that they’re not complete frothing-at-the-mouth wankers you could try showing them the images live from the drone in your DJI app – some fliers have reported success with this technique. But if they are frothing-at-the-mouth wankers then just tell them to fuck off. If they look like they can handle themselves (unlikely) then tell them to fuck off as you’re running to your car and then fly your P4 right into the back of their heads.
You may also try the ‘in plain sight’ technique. Instead of looking all furtive and secretive when you’re flying your UAV, you could simply own it. Get yourself a nice yellow high-vis jacket, a little ‘H’ landing pad, a bit of black and yellow perimeter tape and maybe a couple of small traffic cones and set it up where you’re flying. The same kind of fuck-knuckles that whinge about this sort of thing are programmed to behave docilely around authority figures and if it looks like you’re working in some quasi-official capacity then they might just leave you alone.
If you’ve paid a stupid amount of money to get your UAV licence, then consider getting that certificate copied onto 2m square plastic core-board so that if some psycho granny comes at you, you can show her your official credentials in 140pt type. Alternatively, put a factsheet together with the answers to common questions on it and then, the next time some broom-wielding shithead gives you grief, you can staple it to their forehead.
Whoop Whoop That’s the Sound of the Police
The simple fact is that it’s far from easy being a quadcopter flier in the modern era. Governments have over-legislated these largely harmless devices so much that eventually they’ll be confined to tiny strips of land in the arse-end of nowhere. Park and Reserve authorities have smacked blanket bans on them for no reason other than they don’t like them. The media seized on them like Christmas had come early because it was something else they could scare the shit out of people about, because, you know, ratings. The entertainment industry only ever show them when they’re being used to deliver a terrorist payload. The model aircraft community, who you’d have thought would understand, treat quadcopter pilots like shit on their shoes. Perhaps the greatest enemy of the recreational quadcopter owner is the licensed quadcopter ‘professional’ who thinks that all recreational fliers are criminal anarchists who won’t be happy until they’ve piloted their Mavic into an A380’s engine and killed 400 people.
So here’s my message to recreational quadcopter owners. We need to stick together, because it’s us against the world. And no more Bunnings snags – okay?!