John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
But their presence during implosions is making some people unhappy.
When an old Xerox building went down in Dallas during a controlled implosion this month, rubberneckers weren't just gawking from the ground. Up in the sky were at least four drones, buzzing around and recording footage that later went on YouTube.
Demolitions have always provided a reliable thrill for folks who love large-scale destruction. The public viewpoint, though, has typically been on far-off hills or outside exclusion zones that sometimes fail wonderfully to prevent a crowd-eating smoke-storm. But with the rise in drone technology, det-heads can get more intimate and mind-blowing views of the carnage, like this recent video above an exploding municipal headquarters in the U.K.:
A drone was present this weekend during a demolition of a damaged bridge in Norway:
Another filmed this partially failed hotel implosion a couple weeks ago in Las Vegas:
These are exciting times for anyone who enjoys things going "boom"—though not everybody's a fan of the new presence at demolition sites. After the Dallas leveling job, police and firefighters reportedly told a WFAA-TV news crew they "were not happy to see drones in the sky." As with many new-technology-is-a-threat stories, this one might be overdoing the dangers of drones a bit, but the part about them interfering with other eyes in the air seems pertinent:
"A lot of these people who are flying drones don't understand the kind of dangers they could impose regardless of the size," said [aviation expert Denny] Kelly.
He cites the concern that a drone could fly in the path of a helicopter that may be flying over the scene, or that a drone could get caught in the middle of whatever it's trying to capture, from dropping too far into a situation, or getting caught in the debris from something like an implosion....
Finding him and the other drone operators could be difficult for law enforcement interested in speaking with pilots, and the challenge of keeping them grounded will likely only grow for local authorities.