A Funny Thing Happened Outside the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference

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DARC – Lunchtime on the sidewalk: Attendees and staff step outside for a bit of fresh air. Nick Mottern of KnowDrones has a model drone. The GPB has flyers. Everybody has opinions. Many lively discussions ensue among demonstrators, conference attendees and staff. It’s times like these when I’m really sorry I have only one set of ears.* I keep hearing things like “Thank you for being here. You are raising issues that are important to us. We want these issues discussed.”

One attendee – let’s call him Joe – works on robotic safety, Trying to make sure the things do exactly what they are programmed to do with no nasty surprises. Okay, he knows perfectly well there’s more to safety than that, and he’s interested, but he has to go back to the conference. Another guy, a retired pilot – let’s call him John – works on pilot psychology. A drone pilot doesn’t have to be inside the thing to have psychology. Our pilot shrink is concerned about bringing soldiers home and back into society. These returning soldiers have been trained to kill to win. Many look for jobs with police forces and security agencies. John looks around at the nearby policemen and women. He says they are trained to defuse situations, not to kill.

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Police? What police? Well, of course. Yes, after asking us to leave (we don’t) the NYU security people call the police and another lively discussion ensues. There is a bit of confusion. DARC attendees have yellow and black badges. DARC staff wear yellow and black t-shirts. Grannies are wearing yellow and black tunics. It is kind of hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys and at least one officer gets mixed up. Oh, he says, “Those aren’t demonstrators?” pointing to a couple of DARC staffers.

The discussion gets livelier. Must the demonstrators go or can we stay? This isn’t going well. Joe – remember him, the robotic safety guy – Joe materializes and records the increasingly irate cop on his cellphone.

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At the same time DARC staffers appear with bag lunches for the demonstrators. “This is a turkey sandwich. Are you a vegan?” asks the staffer handing me a lunch. The cops move the model drone away from the entrance. We stay. Later some of us will go to the conference. Yeah, they gave us passes.

Can we work with these people to ban all weaponized and surveillance drones?

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I sure hope so. At least with some of them.

– Eva-Lee Baird
for the Granny Peace Brigade

*Need more ears? Get a drone. But be careful what you wish for. They just might change the vibe.

One thought on “A Funny Thing Happened Outside the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference”

  1. The older I get, the more I realize that every situation is multifaceted. Thank you for capturing this ‘day on the street’ and sharing it with those of us who couldn’t be there. It’s smart, informative and very human. In peace always….

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