Is that a drone in your backyard?

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Photo by La Citta Vita/ Creative Commons / Flickr

The other day I was sitting in my garden doing what I normally do there, weeding. Lulled into the calm that comes with pulling little roots out of the ground, I was in a near Zen state when an unfamiliar buzz interrupted the calm. Like a muted swarm of bees, the sound entered my space in a hurry, and set me looking around, trying to find its origin.

No more than twenty feet above me I spotted it, a drone the size of a large hat box, four sets of blades holding its central core afloat in the sky, over me, and my garden. The drone hovered for a minute and then was off, ready to peer into another garden, perhaps to catch another weeder by surprise.

I live in San Francisco, where Silicon Valley workers are picked up every morning and dropped off every night by white luxury buses equipped with Wi-Fi and leather seats. It seems predictable that here, of all places, some techy would send their drone buzzing through the neighborhood, maybe on a peeping mission or to visit a friend. As my first encounter with an unmanned aerial vehicle, I found the experience instructive. I have long read of outrage in Pakistan and beyond at the sight, sound and, most terrifying of all, bloody impact, of drones, but it was not until I experienced the most minute invasion of privacy that I acutely understood why they elicit such fear and disdain.

Is this something we are all going to have to get used to? With drones being suggested as a new cool way of delivering food, or a backyard DIY project, they are an increasingly pervasive part of everyday life, no longer just for surveillance operations in law enforcement and the military. In Hollywood, they look to also be revolutionizing movies and who gets to make them by allowing everyday enthusiasts to capture shots that only helicopters could before, like this insane video of LA from a drone’s perspective. With their presence growing, how long until I don’t look up when one flies across my garden?