Welcome to the United Drones of America

From California to Kansas to Florida, the former and current war machines are taking up new tasks -- mosquito control, for one. Feel safer yet?

Skycontroller Bebop Drone
Credit: Parrot

Before you click away thinking this post will repeat the same pablum as every other blog, rag, Facebook status, and fortune cookie, be advised: This installment will not slam yet another CEO for sucking on a moron popsicle and dissing the working female population. I already smacked one Chief Executive Brainfart for the same action two weeks ago and I’d hate to be repetitive. At least Zuck and Tim Cook are progressive-minded enough to introduce an egg-freezing program so their working moms don’t need to leave the office to handle that pesky, personal chore of getting pregnant.

Instead, let’s talk about floating traffic lights -- we’re going to need them.

The NSA has been getting fat and lazy lately, and it hasn’t bothered killing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to keep us ignorant for our own protection. But due to that no doubt temporary oversight, Motherboard via MuckRock was able to publish a June 2014 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) list of drone applications. According to that list, pretty soon we'll see more drones than the Russian mob has seen stolen credit card numbers.

The usual suspects

More than 700 different organizations have applied for a Certificate of Authorization that allows them to launch their own flying mech monkeys for any number of reasons. Many of these applicants are folks we expected:

  • NASA, undoubtedly for Mars mission simulations where it crashes drones into Virgin Galactic R&D centers to gauge the potential of remote-detonated Semtex on private-sector competition
  • The NSA and some other law enforcement agencies because … well, the list is too long and frightening for me to write down
  • Various military branches because they need to spend their billions somewhere, death from above seems to be their preferred meth of fighting terrorists, and Halliburton is fresh out of solid gold urinals

But weirder candidates appear, too, foreshadowing the coming drone infestation that’ll darken our skies like mechanical locusts. For example, a couple of universities turn up, likely to advance their federally funded research/boondoggle. Also, nothing livens up a kegger like sitting on the roof, chugging Bud, and strafing freshman.

Two towns make the list:

  • Dunsmuir, Calif., which rather grandly classifies itself as a city though it claims a little less than 1,700 residents
  • Lenexa, Kan., another optimistically named city with a population around 48,000

(I’m not trying to disrespect these burgs, but as an ex-New Yorker, when I think “city,” I think of larger and dirtier locales.)

Their drone requests are particularly unfortunate. I had been hoping to retreat to small-town American when I finally get sick of shooting at the legions of winged camera carriers for fun and profit (mainly fun) and see the clouds again. But apparently small municipals are as eager to darken their skies with unmanned gizmos as the larger metropolises. I guess I’ll have to build a drone bunker or move into the White House -- apparently anyone can get in there.

The weirdest I saw was the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. According to the group's website, the Keys are home to roughly 45 different kinds of mosquitoes that the insect-ravaged citizens have been battling since 1929 with everything from bat towers to an undoubtedly lengthy menu of insecticides. I feel their pain. I once mistook the buzz of a mosquito swarm for a series of incoming texts, and by the time I realized my mistake, my arm looked as raw as a plucked chicken (I never let go of the smartphone, though). I hope mosquito control uses its drones like Valkyrie crop dusters and blankets the area with frog poison and the residual chemicals from Courtney Love’s breakfast shakes.

Regardless of worthy intentions, it’s clear that airplanes and traffic choppers are about to get a lot more company up in the clear blue yonder. Amazon drones, Google drones, spy drones, policing drones, news drones, Cali Cartel cocaine drones, Discovery channel reality TV drones, Peeping Tom drones -- the droning of the coming drones list goes on and on.

It’s a brave new world. Soon, we’ll walk to work not only looking left and right for crazed taxi cabs or cyclists that decide the rules of the street don’t apply to them, but also up in case a flying toaster running on Android or Windows RT skipped its last update and decides to nosedive into our morning latte.

Perhaps air traffic control will have new job openings and soak up the folks Satya Nadella and Meg Whitman recently axed -- more than the entire population of Lenexa, by the way. In fact, maybe the town plans to use its drones to halt the dreaded wave of tech refugees coming to loot their corn and dishonor their progeny.

Then again, some of the ex-tech employees are underpaid women who've been told to keep the faith, shut their mouths, and not ask for raises. Compared to that scenario, a head-on drone attack may be a preferable fate.

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