It’s Saturday, August 20th, 2016, 11:38 am in Sedona, Arizona. Air temperature was 28 C and humidity was 39 %. Wind was averaging 8 km/h with gusts to 52km/h and there was a chance of thunderstorms later that day. Launch conditions were nominal and my inaugural drone flight was a “go”.
For those not in the know, “nominal” is what we say to mean “acceptable”. Who is “we”, you ask? We grew up watching Gemini and Apollo launches, Star Trek, Star Wars (minus the prequel trilogy) and Blade Runner. We learned lessons from the travails of Apollo 13, and patience and fortitude from Gilligan’s Island.
I augmented my extensive TV training with a few YouTube videos, including “Got a new drone, decided to harass moms (sic) boyfriend. Why not?”, “Hilarious Moment – Pervert Turns His Drone into a Peeping Tom”, “Drone Fail Quadcopter Crashes Most Amazing Fails ever!” and finally “Funny Cat Videos with SYMA X5C Quadcopter”.
Maiden voyage for “Wizzy”, my drone, commenced at 11:39. Rotors fired up and we had lift off. Now hovering 4 feet off the ground, I was assaulted aurally by swarming killer bees, intermixed with giant mosquitos. I thought adding flashing green lights to this alarming cacophony would be good for this sleepy town nestled in the Coconino Forest. Surely the neighbors would be happy, no, thankful that I wrangled them from their routine. They would say “I didn’t know you could fly! What else don’t I know about you!” I would casually quip that I can twist balloons in the likeness of deformed poodles and make a loud whistle from an acorn top. I would leave out that I couldn’t really whistle, instead making a thin and hollow would-be-whistle sound by sucking in air. It’s true. I had a whistle-less childhood. Other kids, far more popular, could belt out a deafening trill, with or without their salty fingers in their mouths. This was, after all, decades before cell phones and texting. When I whistled, no one would come or even acknowledge. Lady, my garbage-eating black dog, would not even cock an ear.
Neighbors would call neighbors and they would all come. No need for whistling when I can summon killer bees! Invariably, they would say things like: “Steve, could you inspect my roof with that contraption? I’m afraid of ladders!” “Hey buddy, could you check the parking lot at West Fork? Are there still spots?” or perhaps “My neighbor has a douche-bag barking dog with a bad heart…can you fly low over their yard?” Before long, I might become mayor. No, I didn’t want that. Undying admiration, yes, but politics? Not a chance!
I interrupt these musings to stare at the hovering drone. The noise is terrible and our roof overhang is threatening Wizzy, not to mention nearby tree branches. I expect even the most experienced pilots get cold feet and mine were blocks of ice. I grabbed Wizzy from the sky and tried to remember how to shut it down. It resists my grab and starts to wobble and dodge. The sharp spinning blades threaten to cut me bad. I am just now getting feeling back in my right thumb from a mishap wrestling with a package 18 months earlier. Wizzy could slice off my eyelids and leave me looking weird. A freakish radiologist, incapable of blinking, on permanent disability, who wakes from drenching nightmares to the drone of killer bees. I have momentarily forgotten how to shut it down. I think it takes two hands and one is presently wrestling with the drone. If only I could whistle, maybe someone would come. Now I’m wondering who whistles while being attacked by killer bees. Oh God! Should I throw it and run? Run where? There is a “follow me” feature in the drone’s programming. Was it active? Could I outrun it, outthink or outmaneuver it? I’ve seen enough Sci-Fi shows to know that I was screwed.
About now, my YouTube training kicked in and I remember to pull the left joystick down for a few seconds to shut off the motors. It worked. I put Wizzy down and would have wiped my sweaty brow, but it was already blown dry by the propellers. I knew what I had to do; recharge the battery and watch some actual first flight instruction videos on YouTube.
“The Wrong Stuff Part II” coming soon!
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