Ghost Drone!

21 Jun

Last Friday afternoon I was driving with two friends along the Ottawa River Parkway. We had just passed Island Park Drive when I noticed a shiny silver object in the sky in front of us. From our vantage point it didn’t look too large and we estimated it was about a couple of kilometres away (that’s a little over a mile for my American reader). Pointy with reflective properties, it was just hanging there minding its own business. We discussed what it could be for about twenty seconds before our ADD-addled attention spans were distracted by another shiny object (this one turned out to be a strip of reflective tape on the shoe of a human female running enthusiast).

I find it fascinating that, less than a decade ago, a sighting like this one (the sky thing, not the shoe) would have instantly sent us on a mad race, flying across the city in a desperate attempt to get a closer look at this Unidentified Flying Object (UFO). Reckless, high-speed, gasoline-consuming, putting-in-danger the life and limb of ourselves and pedestrian alike. When the stakes are high enough, behaviour like this is completely justified. I mean, no one wants to make *second* contact.

It’s first or nothing.

So what happened during the past ten years that sparked such a radical shift in human behaviour? Drones is what happened. Low-cost, commercially-available, fun-to-fly, non-military-applicationable, camera-equipped, drones. Witness the content of last Friday’s twenty-second-long debate concerning the origins of our “UFO”:

Jason Hey look, what’s that?

Dave It could be a kite, it’s pretty windy out.

Michael Maybe it’s a drone.

Jason Whoa! Check out the shoes on that jogger!

Michael Man, I wish I was running right now…

All it took for this change to happen was for there to exist a well-known and plausible explanation for the unknown phenomena. This unintended consequence of America’s drone program is one of the things you won’t be reading about in Glenn Greenwald’s column over at the Guardian. And why would you? The primary focus of his writing is security and liberty.

So what’s the fallout from all of this? What I predict is, that over the next few years, we’re going to see a huge decrease in the number of humans who yell “alien!” every time they see something up in the sky that they don’t instantly recognize. These people will have been shamed and ridiculed into logic by those of us who have up-to-date information on the current state of the remote-controlled model aircraft industry.

Just to be clear, I’m not discounting the possibility that extraterrestrial aliens or predators do exist. In fact, ever since I was a little boy I’ve dreamed about going toe-to-toe with an alien. It’s just that from my current understanding of how the universe works, if we do encounter evidence for the existence of aliens, it will more resemble a radio signal (like in Contact) and not the Vulcans detecting the signature of our warp engines (like in First Contact).

I want to believe.

I want to believe. But most likely it’s just the lights on the wingtip of the airplane. International aviation regulations require that all aircraft have visible beacons for navigating in low-light conditions.

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