Written by Judy Epstein Friday, 12 April 2013 00:00
Somebody in upstate New York wants a contract to develop civilian uses for military drones. “Unmanned aircraft could be used for everything from agriculture to mail delivery,” says the press release.
Things must be waaaay more boring upstate than I ever thought (not to mention, much farther apart); but if they are willing to do the heavy lifting, and the research, I can think of a few applications.
For example, I wouldn’t mind using a drone for such chores as sending out the dry cleaning (one way trip, please), or taking the trash to the curb (ditto). Perhaps one day soon, the comforting hum of lawns being mowed on a summer day will be replaced by the busy drone of mail being delivered to your door – in a newly restored Saturday delivery.
And – as long as they fix the exploding bit -- I also see a future, especially in bad weather, for drones that will take your dog for a walk!
The drone will arrive at your door in the morning – perhaps with your morning paper – and hover in place while you go put your dog on a leash. (Researchers note: civilian drones must hover.) You attach the leash to the drone somehow (I suggest carabiner clips), and when you say the word – or perhaps whistle the right tone – it takes off. It then moves at a speed and along a route, which you have designed for it ahead of time, perhaps using Google Maps.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s all well and good, but has Judy forgotten the point of this little exercise? What happens when the dog squats and “delivers”?
But that’s the best part. That’s when a separate little incendiary device takes off, specifically targeting the waste materials and – once your pet and the drone have moved a safe distance away –incinerates them! No muss, no fuss, no ominous little bags for the sanitation men to refuse to collect.
In the future, I see hundreds of uses for these things. And since the New York bid already mentions mail delivery, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to dream just a little bigger, and replace all those hulking UPS trucks with clean, efficient drones.
No drone this side of Pakistan could possibly wreak the havoc in my life, which has already been accomplished by one recent UPS delivery.
My husband had ordered some computer part requiring signature for delivery, but then he ran off to work. Suddenly, I had to cancel all my plans and appointments for the day and just sit, from 8 a.m. Until 8 p.m., trapped indoors, until UPS deemed fit to show up.
I was never so acutely aware of how little time I actually spend at home, until I was forced to. It was the UPS version of house arrest.
In all that time, not a soul came near the house.
So imagine my surprise when, at 8:01 p.m., I opened my door and found – a sticky note from UPS, saying “Unable to deliver….”
When had that happened? They cannot have tried the bell – I would have heard it. I am convinced they hide in the bushes – or maybe the 6th dimension – until they know you’re in the bathroom. Then, triggered by the sound of flushing, they spring out of hiding, slap the note on your door, and zoom off.
The note was only minutes old! And yet – where was the truck?
Usually, you can’t drive through my neighborhood without navigating around the things. I think UPS trains them to choose the most conspicuous, bottlenecked place in any neighborhood. With a choice of the entire Sahara desert, they would be parked smack across the entrance to the only oasis.
Worst of all, the note contained the deadly words: “Final attempt tomorrow: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.”
If I had to go through another day like that, I would explode. So I took matters into my own hands. I jumped in my car and sped around to all their usual haunts.
I finally found one. He was stopped at a light, just at the edge of town. I drove straight for him, horn honking and headlights flashing, until the driver rolled down his window and acknowledged my demented presence. I shouted up at him, “I waited all day for you! Where’s my package?”
He was startled, but recovered quickly. “Must be the other guy,” he said, and zoomed off.
I told my husband that I would leave him before I stayed another day for Lockdown Deliveries. He ended up going out to the warehouse himself.
So it will be no loss to humanity if somebody in upstate New York can train drones to deliver packages to our doorstep. Even if they explode when they get here. Better them, than me!