Randall Munroe is the author of the soon-to-be-released How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems, which is described as “the world’s least useful self-help book”; the already published (and now well-thumbed on our bookshelf )What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions; Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words; and a plethora of brilliant comics, some of which you can find on his blog xkcd.com. Munroe is a genius for thinking of interesting things and expressing them in a fascinating way, so when he comes up with something about drones – however far-fetched – we have to report.
Here it is: Serena Versus the Drones. Munroe got tennis great Serena Williams – with the generous cooperation of her husband Alexis, who offered up his Mavic Pro 2 with a broken camera – to see how hard it would be to down a quadcopter using tennis serves.
It took Serena only three tries with her killer serve before the Mavic was toast. (See Munroe’s cartoon documentation of the test here and the video of the experiment here.) Business Insider reported on the test saying that it proved quadcopters were vulnerable to impact (true.) Munroe apparently discussed the issue with a robot ethicist – is serving a drone out of the sky wrong?
Here at DRONELIFE we remind strangers that shooting somebody else’s drone out of the sky even with a tennis ball is probably illegal – but we also have questions. The sacrificial Mavic had a broken camera, and was hovering over the net waiting to be hit. What if its pilot had decided to take evasive action? Could even the great Serena have pursued a drone with a tennis serve? Could a drone equipped with sense and avoid technology have run away from the ball?
Munroe did acknowledge that it wasn’t actually a good way to down a drone. In fact, it might be one of the worst, if you aren’t actually Serena Williams.
But now you know.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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