FLIGHTS OF FANCY

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - From The Editor... - an­thony@ram­say­media.co.za

Afriend of mine pi­lots a quad­copter UAV as a hobby, and hav­ing seen him in ac­tion, I have to say that he does it – like he does just about ev­ery­thing else – with great pre­ci­sion. But not nec­es­sar­ily with emo­tion, be­cause I’ve never seen him hug his drone with quite as much fer­vour as Chris Tow­nend is do­ing in the pic­ture above.

For most of the rest of us, drones can give rise to emo­tion. To me, they are a bit like jet­skis: you ei­ther have one and love them, or you hate them and want one.

The rea­son Tow­nend loves his drone is that it has be­come an in­dis­pens­able tool of his trade, which is photography and videog­ra­phy. As de­signs have be­come more so­phis­ti­cated, oth­ers have caught on and I can think of at least three events I have taken part in – one of them in­volv­ing cars trav­el­ling at high speed – that were recorded by im­pres­sively pi­loted cam­era-equipped drones.

Set­ting aside for a mo­ment dis­cus­sion of their more war­like pur­poses, there’s no ques­tion that big­ger, more pow­er­ful and ul­ti­mately more dan­ger­ous fly­ing ob­jects of this sort pose a risk to con­ven­tional air­borne traf­fic and the world at large. Part of that is be­cause they have at­tracted a fol­low­ing that’s broader than the usual model-air­craft brigade. Their ap­par­ent ap­peal is that they seem to be, well, easy to fly. Even with­out the au­to­mated fea­tures built into many of them.

Of course, fly­ing these machines as a hob­by­ist, within the lim­its of safety, pri­vacy and ap­pli­ca­ble reg­u­la­tions, is some­thing we should all feel free to be able to do. But when it comes to on­go­ing op­er­a­tions, pos­si­bly for gain, there’s a case to be made for set­ting stan­dards. Which is why se­nior as­so­ci­ate edi­tor Lind­sey Schut­ters found him­self out in the Karoo at Drone Boot Camp (it’s not re­ally called that, but it sounds ap­pro­pri­ate), gain­ing insight into what it takes to be­come a cer­ti­fied UAV pi­lot. His story ap­pears on page 42.

From hard­ware of the high-tech kind to hard­ware of the more fa­mil­iar kind. In a cer­tain part of town, you’ll still find the old-fash­ioned hard­ware store. You know the kind we’re talk­ing about: in­te­rior lit by a fly­specked 60- wat­ter, aroma that’s a com­bi­na­tion of Jeyes Fluid and spir­its of salts, walls and ceil­ings fes­tooned with iron­mon­gery (what a great word!) and staffed by an­cient be­ings who know ex­actly where to lay their hands on a grub screw for a 1970s star pat­tern bib­cock. Cav­ernous home cen­tres and bright, new­bie-friendly DIY fran­chise stores have taken over. Frankly, we love both kinds, for very dif­fer­ent rea­sons. The ques­tion is, which one do you love? And why? We’re af­ter South Africa’s favourite hard­ware store. Tell us which one revs your cord­less drill and in a fu­ture is­sue we’ll hon­our the pick of the bunch. If by chance you know where I can lay my hands on a grub screw for a 1970s star pat­tern Co­bra tap, even bet­ter. Two, if pos­si­ble.

Fi­nally, there are gui­tar play­ers and then there are gui­tar play­ers who make the rest of us want to do­nate our own in­stru­ments to the near­est bon­fire. Lo­cal leg­end Robin Gal­lagher is one such and you can read his story in this month’s How Your World Works. And the point of this? Be­sides be­ing an ace player, Gal­lagher knows a thing or two about col­lectable gui­tars. Which pro­vided just the im­pe­tus we needed to com­mence dig­ging into the world of col­lect­ing and col­lec­tors, which we plan to visit on a reg­u­lar ba­sis in the months ahead.

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