A Mind of its Drone

Standing in the mountain air December 25th, searching the grey winter sky for any sign of the falling done, I felt some resignation. But despite the drone's disappearance, we were hooked on flight.

A few steps back: That morning, Christmas brought a Parrot Rolling Spider Mini Drone into our home. After a few minutes of fun plastering an evil looking mouth sticker on the front, we plugged in the tiny battery for 45 minutes to ready the ten inch, quad-coptered "beast". Lighter than an iPhone, it seemed an unlikely candidate for flight, but on connecting it to the appropriate iPhone app (there are imitators that do nothing) and hitting the liftoff button, it came to an steady buzz five feet off the floor. It took the better part of three or four six minute flights banging into the dinner table, wall plants, the ceiling and most definitely the floor to get a semblance of control. Soon a few twists of the thumbs let us send the spider dancing around the room to the cat's glee. And all of a sudden we had the confidence if not the skill for outdoor flight.

Outside we went to test our luck at flying over the house to photograph the house with the imbedded camera. Lo and behold the "60 foot range" and "height limit parameters" we were counting on to limit any potential disaster let us down. Upon a simple liftoff the drone took off like a bat out of hell, stopped responding to the controller, didn't stop its engine on the kill switch order, and quickly rose straight into the sky to a few thousand feet before disappearing into cloud cover. Meet the gift from hell.

Parrot mini drone

I sincerely hope that no one was hurt. The drone could easily have gone into the flightpath of the local airport or fallen from its six minute assent straight onto a car or worse a head. I completely agree with Seth Stevenson of The Slate's assessment "maybe there ought to be some regulations out there to protect us from ourselves." No kidding! A permit or required training might not have been a bad idea. And a functioning drone without the tendency to escape its master would have helped as well.

Parrot seems to know about the bug because they immediately offered a replacement. But perhaps we'd better fly indoors for a while until we can pilot like a pro and Parrot gets the kinks worked out. In the meantime, we are sadly awaiting our replacement drone and eyeing a few larger ones too. Someone better add a few regulations before we go buy a drone large enough to crush a car!