COLUMN: Look out! The drones are swarming

  • Posted: Monday, April 1, 2013 11:05 a.m.

I’ve been thinking about exercising my Second Amendment right to buy an anti-aircraft gun as a protection against hostile drones.

Back in the day, “hostile drone” would have been considered an oxymoron, if we’d known what an oxymoron was. A drone, by definition, was a bee whose only duty was to loll around the hive and keep the queen fertilized.

Drones were happy and indolent creatures who wouldn’t dream of interrupting their pleasure to plunge a stinger into somebody’s flesh.

We have such creatures in the human tribe, but we call them “welfare bums.” They are more dangerous than drone bees, because the Second Amendment guarantees them the right to keep and bear firearms.

Today’s drones are not so harmless. They’re airplanes without pilots, and they can fly around until they find a target, then zap it. And their stingers are lethal.

The current U.S. attorney general has opined that the president has the constitutional authority to sic a drone on an American citizen if the citizen is considered a dire enough threat to national security.

The idea of zapping a citizen without a trial frightens a lot of us, though the principle is well grounded in Western movies: “Why are we wasting money on a trial for this no-good horse thief? Here’s a rope and there’s a tree: Let’s hang ’im.”

I never shed many tears for those horse thieves, except for those who were falsely accused. Things were dull back in the 19th century, and sometimes a good hanging was the only entertainment available to the average citizen.

But armed and dangerous drones are a threat to us all. They not only can shoot first and ask questions later. They can spy on us when we’d rather not be spied on.

I remember as a boy, when working in the open fields, being hesitant about taking care of certain necessary business when an airplane was flying over. It wasn’t until I had grown up and flown in an airplane that I discovered that from the air you can’t tell what somebody is wearing or even if they’re wearing anything.

It’s different today. When I’m driving down the road and have my GPS on, the lady up in that satellite hundreds of miles away can tell whether I missed my turn and need to make a U-turn. I’m sure she also knows every time I stop at a rest stop or, a rest stop being unavailable, step behind a live oak to find comfort.

So a drone flying at a few hundred feet can easily spy on me and post pictures on YouTube that could ruin my reputation.

I’ve just read that drones are swarming all over the map of the United States, and they have fearsome capabilities.

The Puma AE drone can land on a city street or a fish pond, and catch you if you’re fishing illegally from Granny Shaw’s pond.

Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird can stay in the air for as long as 24 hours, pointing its gigapixel camera at whatever moves. You can’t hide from it in the woods, because it has a foliage-penetration radar system.

The Air Force’s Reaper drone (ain’t that a grim name for you?) can take motion pictures of an entire city. These pictures can then be analyzed by humans or by artificial intelligence. If that sounds far-fetched to you, tune in “Person of Interest” on TV. It’s real.

If the loan companies ever get ahold of one of those drones, it’ll be curtains for those of us who occasionally miss a payment on our title loans. They’ll send out a drone that can track us down and even pick our pockets for the cash we owe.

I shudder to think what’s going to happen when drone makers learn to miniaturize their creations. Imagine a gnat-sized drone capable of sneaking up your drain pipes and into your kitchen or bathroom.

From there, it would have the run of the house, eavesdropping on your most private moments. That’s why I never let a gnat, or a fly, or a silverfish live any longer than I can swat it with a newspaper (newspapers still have their uses). Who knows whether it’s a biological bug or an artificial drone reporting back to Voyeur Central?

Since Big Brother (or is it Big Uncle?) has such awesome capabilities for stripping us of our privacy, and even of our lives, it seems only prudent that private citizens take action.

In the age of drones, no American home should be without an anti-aircraft gun.

Picture a hostile drone flying over Aiken, trying to catch innocent citizens running a caution light on Richland Avenue, or maybe cutting into line at Southern Bank & Trust.

The drone would think twice (if drones can think) about snooping on this city if it knew that every yard concealed an anti-aircraft gun. Sure, it could use its foliage-penetrating radar to locate the guns, but I doubt that it could take out thousands of guns with one zap.

Soon the air would be filled with lethal missiles aimed at the drone. Folks in Aiken County are pretty good shots, and chances are excellent that one of them would hit the drone.

Where would the rest of them go?

Probably into Augusta, or Columbia, or Barnwell. That’s what the Pentagon calls “collateral damage,” and we’d just have to let those folks take care of themselves.

I’m just hoping they wouldn’t return the fire.

Readers may email Gene Owens at WadesDixieco@AOL.com.

Gene Owens is a retired newspaper editor and columnist who graduated from Graniteville High School and now lives in Anderson.

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