“Don’t Tase Me, Bro!” will soon be out-hollered by us all in a new plea against the machine: “Don’t Drone Me, Dude!” — completely performed in the outcry of public theatricality that now passes for national security. Where once our shoes had more dangerous derring-do than the hovering skies above us — today, we are forced to realize our ordinary, everyday, overlord drones are blackening our city skies and that they are inherently more dangerous than all the guns in heaven.
For years, we’ve been subjected to taking off our shoes in airports because of a single incident with a failed shoe bomber. I groan to think what our lives would’ve been like all this time if he’d instead had C-4 taped to his genitals.
Today, we don’t always have to remove our shoes before boarding a plane — though sometimes we still must — but once a ridiculous threat was identified, and blown totally out of proportion, we had to always thwart that evil at every airport security checkpoint.
Enter the drone.
I cannot think of a more perfect death-by-delivery-device than a consumer-level drone anyone can buy online or in a local big box store. These “drones for the people, by the people” are quick, mobile, and pretty much untraceable — unless you mess up and get caught — and they can destroy aircraft engines, shoot people for you in absentia, and they just happen to be the most perfect method for delivering weaponized anthrax across the country in a methodical, if not mediated, attack on the Homeland.
Yet, the drone threat isn’t seen as a terrorist mechanism, but rather as an inconvenience for commercial air flights. Imagine the day when local delivery drones from Amazon — or the corner store, or the dry cleaners — are taken over by illegitimate entities striking real, and authenticated, threats of the day. That scenario will play out 100 times more often than a perchance shoe bomber ever could.
Google was spotted conducting more delivery drone tests Monday in an effort to beat competitor Amazon. But regulators are close behind, moving to require drone operators to register unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with the Department of Transportation much like drivers do with their cars.
After airplane pilots began reporting drone sightings and hundreds of near-collisions, the transportation agency sought to keep track of the number of drones in flight through a newly-formed task force dedicated to developing a new registration system.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration has been working on guidelines for commercial use. Drone operators would have to “meet an appropriate threshold of weight, capability and other safety-related characteristics,” but not enough to be burdensome for causal flyers, according to the Academy of Model Aeronautics, an industry advocacy group that is a part of the Transportation Department’s task force.
What choice do we have as a free society against the unassailable inevitable? As soon as the NRA digs their jaws into the FAA for registering “gun delivery drones” as a threat to the Second Amendment, we will all be in free fall dodging assault rifles in the sky bearing down at us over the hill instead of inside school hallways.
How soon will we become nostalgic for the good ole days of confined school shootings instead of open sky drive-by shootings?
The thing about weaponizing the everyday object is that it will always be done because it can’t not be done. The thrill is irresistible.
Which is the more deadly promise? Shoes on a plane, or drones attacking our skies? It doesn’t take much imagination, or longing, to decipher the grander danger among us — yet we’re more worried about airplanes than we are about neighborhoods — and that’s the problem with dealing with security threats in the USA: We value property over people.
The Age of the Drone is just beginning — and its infancy is already insidiously infamous and propitiatingly promising — but autonomy will become the unoriginal proprietary death of us, especially with artificial intelligence controlling our skies, behaviors, and freedom to move around the world, or not, as we please.