This past week brought to light two different instances where "drone paranoia" reared its ugly head in the United States. In one case, a Connecticut quadcopter pilot was assaulted, in another a Michigan man was dubiously barred from flying his quad in a park. Both incidents were sparked by passersby who felt they were being "spied on" by the flying devices while in public.
There has long been a debate in the unmanned systems community as to whether the word "drone" should be resisted or embraced. On one side are those who argue that the term is unfit for various reasons, chief among them being its decidedly negative connotations. On the other, those who believe that the term is so ingrained in popular culture that it isn't worth resisting.
At BirdsEyeView Aerobotics, we're not fans of the word "drone" and we're not afraid to pick battles where we're a decided underdog. A quick survey of media reports from the past five years reveals that this is widely identified as a drone:
And unsurprisingly this is the first image that pops up in a Google image search for the term.
The word "drone" is so tied to images of hellfire missiles, actual real world spying by military and intelligence agencies, and general death and destruction, that its use when describing consumer grade technology is now resulting in physical injury and unjust accusations of criminality. We believe that when a word becomes so clearly negative that the result is an assault on a person, it's way past time to change the word.
Previous attempts at settling on an alternate term have failed miserably for two reasons. One, the alternate terms just didn't fit the bill (more on that below). And two, everyday people weren't really being affected by the word "drone." The second point is changing rapidly, as the Connecticut and Michigan events illustrate. But let's focus on the first.
A substitute for the word "drone" needs to accomplish three things:
Now let's compare some of the previous suggestions against our three criteria:
Aerobot ... easy to say, accurate, universal. A play on a word ("robot") that sparks imagination and not cynicism. We submit that "aerobot" is the perfect word. Let the military have "drones" and let the media continue to drive debate around deadly and dangerous misuse of the technology by state agencies.
Drones are weapons, Aerobots save puppies.