Drone? Really?

I do get amused when the news media throw words into a news story to pump up the sensationalism of a story which is otherwise a bit mundane. My pet peeve of the day is the word “drone”.

When I was a teenager back in th 60s, remote controlled model airplanes and helicopters were available. They were called RC model airplanes (RC standing for “radio controlled”). They were great toys for individuals and there were clubs of RC “pilots” that organized field days, competitions etc.. Many adults as well as children participated. The wireless capabilities in those days pretty much limited flights of these devices to ‘line of sight’ from the operator (pilot). Today these same activities take place. The main difference is that electronics have evolved since those days and now these model planes can be remotely controlled over greater distances, can carry miniature campers, and even have GPS receivers. All this at a price that the average hobbyist can afford. As these new and improved toy planes/helicopters became more popular, the media tagged them with evil and sinister traits. They became (in the eyes of the media) a threat to our personal privacy and a deadly hazard to air transportation. You can not report on something this sinister without giving it a new and sinister name.

In parallel with this evolution of the RC model airplane, our military was engaged in a deadly war against terrorism. New weapons were being developed to fight this new threat to the security of the nation. One of these weapons developments was an unmanned war plane that was capable of doing surveillance and delivering bombs and other ordinance on distant enemy locations. All this while the pilot was safe in a secure location thousands of miles away. The military named these remote controlled weapons “drones”. There have been several news stories over the past few years of impressive victories over the enemies of the nation using military drones.

So what does the media do, they decide to use the public interest in military drones to spice up their otherwise boring stories about the new generation of RC model planes. So they started calling them drones as well. Wow, doesn’t that make them sound more sinister? Hey, if you are too lazy to write an engaging story on a mundane subject like the newest generation of toy airplanes, why not just try and borrow some of the public interest generated by stories of “real” drones.

I have called the new RC model planes toys, but I do realize that they are also finding new commercial applications like aerial photography, but they are still not drones. That name is taken.

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