Big Brother is Watching You (and so are Mom and Dad)

In December, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) selected sites in a half-dozen states across the country to test unmanned aircraft systems, or drones.  It’s all part of a plan to eventually allow widespread use of drones in our domestic airspace.  As you might expect, law enforcement agencies at every level are eager to get their hands on them.  But if you ask me, the government is overlooking a key group who may be even MORE interested in drone technology…helicopter parents.

Yes!  You know who I’m talking about – those well-meaning moms and dads who like to keep a VERY close eye on their children’s activities and interactions?  To the point where it seems like they’re constantly hovering just above the poor kids’ heads?  Well, now they can move one step closer to becoming actual helicopters.  Thanks to drone technology, they’ll be able to provide their comforting presence, along with high-resolution surveillance, around the clock.

God knows they’re ready for it.  Helicopter parenting is pretty tiring, after all.  The really dedicated ones make it a full-time job, starting with their child’s birth and continuing through college graduation and into young adulthood.  There are countless phone calls, e-mails and meetings involved.  Party hosts need to be informed of food preferences.  Coaches need to be questioned about the line-up for Saturday’s game.  Professors need to be confronted over mid-term grades.

Now imagine how much more efficiently these parents could get the job done with professional observation equipment and a secure WiFi connection.  Drones could offer them infrared cameras, radar technology, night vision capability and most importantly, the ability to stay in the air for loooong periods of time.  They can be as small as a model airplane (perfect for peeking into the window of the dance studio or corporate recruiting office) or as large as a jumbo jet (ideal for patrolling the beach during Spring Break.)  Customs and Border Protection even has Predator B drones equipped with VADER (Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar) technology, which can track individual vehicles and people on the ground.  According to The Washington Post, they regularly fly missions for other law enforcement agencies, so why not get them to follow your teenager’s car home from the prom?

The possibilities are limited only by these concerned parents’ imaginations.  In other words, the sky’s the limit, people!  Want to make sure the kids are taking turns on the playground?  There’s a drone for that.   Want to confirm that your college freshman is really attending that 8 o’clock class?  There’s a drone for that, too.  Want to check that someone invited your junior executive out to lunch on his first day?  Yep, there’s even a drone for that.

Congress originally set a deadline of September 2015 to safely open the skies to drones.  If the FAA has any hope of meeting that goal, it’s time to bring ALL interested parties to the table.  So, as researchers in Nevada look into drones’ impact on air traffic control, why not ask the PTO of the nearest elementary school for input?  I’m sure a local MOMS Club would have some creative solutions for scientists in North Dakota as they test the data links between drones and their controllers.  And engineers in New York could certainly benefit from the enthusiasm of a high school booster club as they test sense-and-avoid technology to keep drones away from other aircraft.

Some might question the wisdom of providing privacy-invading technology to boundary-challenged parents, but I say it’s a match made in heaven.  A slightly unnerving, dystopian kind of heaven, where Mom and Dad can watch your every move, but still.  They’re only doing it because they care.

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