Tags

, , ,

The front cover of Mel Healy's crime thriller 'Ghost Flight'The Kindle edition of my latest novel Ghost Flight is released on 24 April 2015 – four months after the paperback version.

I hope it’s worth the wait. As a bonus – think of the “Extra Features” on a DVD – it includes a Moss Reid short story (6,700 words) plus an extra essay called “Spoilers and Secrets”.

Most of the essay deals with places and events in the book, but this extract is more of a rant: it’s the bit where I drone on about the drones and quadcopters that feature in the story.

And don’t panic: there aren’t any spoilers below.

* * *

… As for the “rise of the drones” [in the book], drone warfare is unfortunately very real; it continues to be a central plank of US military policy overseas. Yet the drone is reluctant to be pinned down, both in the real physical sense and as a symbol of anything.

That’s part of the problem: drone warfare represents a fundamental disconnect between the American people and the overseas wars waged in their name, often in countries against which the USA hasn’t officially declared war, conducted in the shadows by small unaccountable groups with a “God’s eye view” of the world.

At the time of writing [the book] there were probably far more headlines about a very different kind of drone: commercial or recreational quadcopters.

By the summer of 2014 “drones” in all shapes and sizes seemed to be everywhere, from backyards to battlefields, but it was in this “everyday” context that they invaded the media and popular consciousness, buzzing above local parks or familiar landmarks or herding sheep in the latest viral video on YouTube.

A backlash was inevitable: quadcopters were beginning to be seen as a regulatory and security issue. These toys that you could buy online for a couple of hundred euro were – gulp – getting out of control.

At the heart of Fortress Europe these anxieties seem far greater for phenomena that are closer to home than, say, the daily remote-controlled drone strikes somewhere out there in the Middle East.

Drone transport

While I was writing Ghost Flight I became hypersensitive to the rise of “drone porn”. Not just the stories about the military drones, or the little toy quadcopters that amateurs buy for a bit of fun. No, I mean the rising babble in the Tech columns of the media about the brave new world of drone transport.

Take this short example from March 2015: Facebook’s new Aquila drone will have “the wingspan of a 737 and the mass of a small car” and – wait for it – it will “fly over regions of the developing world, sprinkling internet access like rain”.

This is a clever, seductive image – once again of gods in the heavens, but this time of benevolent gods showering dark continents with their gifts of information and enlightenment and free wifi access.

Yet this particular brand of rain goes both ways. I’m not scared about hulks of metal the size of small cars with the wingspan of a 737 whizzing around above the clouds and crashing to earth. I’m more worried about why they’re up there.

The handful of Internet giants who are investing billions on these technologies aren’t philanthropic foundations, however much they dress it up. These are cutting-edge global corporations that want to make huge profits by dredging up the data from these underdeveloped regions, sucking it up to be processed in the Cloud. The Facebooks, Googles and Amazons of this world have begun an arms race, a race to control drone airspace, and …

OK, enough. Rant over.

Related  links

 

Advertisements