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Think the latest military drones are scary? Have you driven in California?

Think the latest military drones are scary
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Despite what Guillermo del Toro thinks, in the future we won’t be fighting giant aliens from another dimension who’ve entered our world through a portal in the ocean with huge robots called Jaegers, piloted by two, count ‘em, two mind-melding humans. That’s just ridiculous. Not that the alien threat isn’t real. Oh, it is. But the Jaegers, those things, will likely be unmanned.

It makes sense. If the Jaegers in Pacific Rim were piloted from someone sitting in a cushy chair in front of a computer screen, who knows how many bad actors would’ve been saved? Oh yeah, um, SPOILER ALERT! See, unmanned vehicles (aka drones) are the new black.

Last week, the Navy successfully landed a fighter jet-sized drone aboard an aircraft carrier for the first time, exhibiting their ability to have a computer perform one of the most difficult tasks for a pilot. Let’s just hope it wasn’t this computer.

This achievement now paves the way for the U.S. to launch unmanned aircraft without using other country’s bases, and likely means that in the future, the fighter pilot will be going the way of the dodo bird. Just don’t tell this guy… Though, I’m sure the Righteous Brothers will breathe a sigh of relief. Well, at least, the half that’s still alive.

So this is how the war with machines starts, huh?

But drones aren’t just hitting the frontlines. They’re also in … Florida. (Of course. Is there ever a shitty news story that doesn’t somehow involve the state of Florida?) According to Talking Points Memo, the Air Force is now repurposing Vietnam-era planes with drone technology to use as target practice. If the idea of unmanned, Vietnam-era planes engaging in a dogfight over Disneyworld doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, just imagine if your name was Charlie.

Like it or not, we better get used to this. The FAA claims that anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 unmanned flying robots may be hovering above us by the year 2020. As USA Today states, “The National Conference of State Legislatures recently reported that eight states have enacted legislation to control the use of drones and 35 others have or now are considering it.”

The sky isn’t the only area where unmanned vehicles are beginning to pop up, though. They’re also on our (gulp) roads. Many people in Silicon Valley have seen driverless Google cars motoring around. Just as carmakers have eliminated the task of parallel parking, companies such as Audi, Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz are working on eliminating the task of driving altogether.

California governor Jerry Brown signed legislation last year that made it the third state to allow driverless cars on the roads, after Nevada and … wait for it … Florida. Now the federal government is getting in on the act; in May, the Transportation Department formally encouraged cities to allow testing of driverless cars.

Drivers going the way of the saber-toothed tiger? Just don’t tell this guy

X47BTalk about wearing some “bad idea jeans“. The only thing more nightmarish than an unmanned vehicle patrolling our skies is the 405 freeway filled with unmanned SUV’s during rush hour, or as we here in Los Angeles call it, “The Shit”. (A commute can do strange things to a man.) That’s a ride even A.C. Cowlings would pass up.

Apparently, I’m not the only one that isn’t psyched about all this.

According to Denver’s ABC affiliate, Deer Trail, a budding metropolis with a whopping 540 residents an hour east of Colorado’s capitol, has drafted regulations and bounties for drone hunting. Drone hunting? The ordinance reads, “The Town of Deer Trail shall issue a reward of $100 to any shooter who presents a valid hunting license and the following identifiable parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle whose markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government.”

Say what?! Now, I don’t mind if you hunt drones, as long as you’re gonna eat what you kill. Am I right? Oh, I kid Deer Trail only because… it’s completely petrifying! You can almost hear the banjo from here, can’t ya?

So this is how the war with the machines starts, huh? These assholes? Well, if I have to pick teams and my choices are flying military robots or the good people of Deer Trail, sorry John Connor, I’m taking the flying military robots any day of the week and twice on Sunday. After all, it’s not that hard to avoid the freeway, my name ain’t Charlie, and the more I think about it, the only thing scarier than an umanned machine … is man.

(Images courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

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Peter Soldinger
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Peter Soldinger is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter for film and television with a passion for sports and a contentious…
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