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Knowledge, Perspectives

Where the Grass is Greener

August

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Esther Lafferty
White drone over the field of flowering rape

The Significant Other has had his eye on a gadget spurred on by stylish Facebook footage of other adult-sized children hovering above their houses from the comfort of their own garden bench.

Drones, it seems to me, are an excellent high-tech way to encourage the young and old to engage with the natural world. First there's the preparatory meteorology, checking an app for rainfall predictions and the all-important wind speed and direction information. Then there's the electronics that underpin this pastime, the hour-long charging and joystick handling carefully explained in a briskly discarded instruction leaflet; and there's about 15 seconds looking at the drone in the sky, as birds fly overhead and clouds scud past. Finally it's time for the bulk of the activity, an afternoon hopelessly thrashing through long grass with sticks as if on a big game hunt in which there is no big game and our prey lies very small and still giving no clue to its hiding place. I might have well just lobbed a ball into the field - that time-honoured form of entertainment- but we now have too much sense to chase a ball whilst drone-finding is an entirely 21st-century sport.

The sky is a big place and you'd think it would be difficult to crash in 360 degrees of empty space - however The Significant Other and I borrowed The Youngest's new birthday drone recently and spent a happy three minutes watching it circling our apple tree before it shot uncontrollably skywards on a gust of wind described with considerable spin by The Significant Other as 'a gale'.

My aptitude on Nintendo Mario Kart, and an uncanny ability to leave the track and fly through the air, might have led a casual observer to think I have a natural talent for piloting an aircraft, virtual or otherwise, at least until I crashed to the track ignominiously a moment later. It's a good job that storks deliver human babies because if I had been in charge of flying my children in, they'd either have been smashed to smithereens or would be eking out an existence on rooftops, at best. Mind you, The Youngest would probably think that preferable to his current circumstances.

His borrowed drone came to rest in a channel between to high gables of a three-storey residential home for the elderly behind our house and became cutting-edge plastic pollution that no amount of poking with a stick was going to get down. And the lesson? Should you wish to undertake surreptitious neighbour surveillance, just climb a tree without lodging a piece of expensive technology in the upper branches first. Perhaps those age-old outdoor activities were the best, after all.

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