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Comment | Make Drones Silent or Don’t Make Them At All

Drones are ruining everything that their footage portrays as beautiful...

It’s a Saturday morning and the sun is up. In Scotland. Do not underestimate the rarity of this occasion.

We’re out on our mountain bikes in the Pentland Hills, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. You can see the city in the distance, trace the outlines of Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle with your fingertips and follow the water from South Queensferry right across to Fife more than 50 miles away.

Aside from the views though, we’re very much far from city life. That’s what weekends are for, right? The phones have been stuck on silent, we’ve not got a GoPro between us, we’ve only passed a handful of other human beings in the past couple of hours and the only sounds to be heard are birdsongs, feet on pedals and wheels on dirt – oh, but what’s that? IT’S A SMALL PLASTIC FLOATING SPAWN OF HELL HERE TO RUIN MY LIFE.

Drones.

Drones.

Drones. DRONES.

Drones.

Drones. Drones. D-R-O-N-E-S. Drones.

The countryside and the hills used to be somewhere you could go to get away from the stresses of technology. Now nowhere is safe. You could reach the top of Mount Everest when some rich nutcase whips out a drone for that aerial selfie he’s probably going to end up masturbating over late at night.

The hills are meant to be a safe space where you can find solitude and privacy but head on into the wild in the weeks after Christmas and you’ll probably end up in 15 strangers’ Facebook cover photos after a one-hour mountain bike ride.

That – and that oh-so-monstrous whine will ensure you don’t get a moment’s peace all day. Seriously, that noise is so annoying. It’s so annoying. It’s so annoying IT’S EVEN CALLED A DRONE.

SOMEONE SOMEWHERE IS LAUGHING AND THE WORST THING IS WE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO.

 

The concept of drones is solid. It’s a camera, but instead of being low down, where humans are, it’s high up, where humans are not. Thus allowing us to capture footage of our wonderful planet from a perspective which we would otherwise not have been able to see. And some of that footage is spectacular.

But there’s a problem there. Because every piece of our beautiful planet that drone footage shows on film would have been ruined in that moment of filming by the very fact that a drone was there to capture it.

IT’S ENTIRELY HYPOCRITICAL.

By attempting to showcase – often successfully – the stunning nature of our planet, we’re actively making it worse for those who are there in real life. Get yourself into the wild and hunt for that quiet promised to you by a drone and there’s every chance that very same drone will be waiting right there to deny you exactly that. Look. There it is. Up in the sky. Humming. Laughing. Laughing at you with it’s endless fucking droning.

And I’m the first to admit that I love the footage the things come out with. It even inspires me to get further out in the wild. But they need to make those things silent as soon as humanly possible or this just isn’t going to fly (geddit?). Surely this is achievable? We sent a man to the moon in 1969 and have more technology than was needed to do that in our pockets. We must be able to make a remote control helicopter that can film high things without sounding like a slowly buffering feed of Liam Gallagher’s voice got stuck on loop at the worst possible moment.

And it’s not just the great outdoors of course. City landmarks are even worse off.

We were up the stunning Calton Hill in Edinburgh a few days before this story began and there were three – (!) – drones hovering over a large collection of people largely sitting in ones or twos, reading books and trying to relax with a view of the city but finding that increasingly difficult as they found they were competing with a trifecta of whining demons combining to make the worst trance track since your little cousin Caz got turntables for Christmas.

Possibly the worst thing about this epidemic is how painstakingly smug the drone owners tends to look while they’re in the process of cementing themselves in your nightmares. Genuinely, if they were sending the thing up for a few moments to get their shot with an embarrassed look and an apologetic wave I would be more sympathetic, but these chaps tend to not only look like they’re happy about ruining your silence – they look like you should be impressed by their gadgetry! IT’S NOT IMPRESSIVE IT’S A FLYING REMOTE CONTROL PLANE I HAD ONE WHEN I WAS SEVEN.

What are you even going to do with so much footage? On the off-chance you actually get around to plugging that thing into your computer you’ll end up using one small clip out of your two hours of pilot-work (before realising all of your footage is the same) and then watch on in horror as your dated Mac – because of course you only use Apple products – slowly fails to cope with your 4K film edit. If you’re making a film or a serious edit, I have more patience and apologise.

But what if somebody was talking loudly in the library? You’d tell them to quiet down. What if some kids were playing rowdy naughties pop songs through a speaker halfway down your trail? You’d also tell them to quiet down if they didn’t look scary, or if they did look too scary, you’d at the very least complain about it to your friends or partner when you got home. What if you were walking down the road with your headphones in and a man decided to walk beside you making despicable noises so loud they drowned out the vocals? You’d check your iPod hadn’t spontaneously downloaded the solo work of Fred Durst, and then you’d promptly tell whoever it was to fuck directly off.

You know how when you go to any big-name landmark the first thing you see is mobile phones and selfie sticks? Well we’ve already lost that war. Keep going on these tracks and we give it 25 years until the River Thames has a permanent roof of drones and you have to start wearing earplugs out in the wild.

My opinion? Make drones silent, or don’t make them at all. Feel free to disagree.

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