Eyes in the sky
Moving smoothly and silently above the trees, the drone captured it all in that liminal space between day and night. No sharp focus here but softened edges and blurred lines; the houses with their neat (or not so neat) yards, people walking their dogs (or just walking), outdoor lights beginning to paint this world in grays and creams, shadows deepening under the trees of the woods beside barely visible railroad tracks.
The hand that guided the drone belonged to an 18-year-old woman sitting in front of an array of screens in a room lit only by the screens themselves. She had programmed the drone today with coordinates to the railroad tracks and back but had it in training mode to teach it the route she preferred. Her other hand was in the midst of plugging in the holes in some code she’d written for White Dragon, a computer game she and a friend had created. Her eyes flicked from one screen to the next, her hands moving quickly as she maneuvered from task to task when suddenly both her hands stopped. Her eyes stared at one of the screens on her left and quickly took the drone out of the program and into manual mode so that she could circle back.
What had she seen?
The drone silently glided around and hovered as she positioned its camera to see more clearly in the half-light.
As the drone’s camera zoomed in, a man stood from a crouching position in a small clearing in the woods. A naked, young female lay on the ground in front of him; her body a cream-in-coffee color in the fading light, no tan lines. The man started to walk unhurriedly in the direction of the railroad tracks but the naked female’s lips did not move to speak, her eyes did not follow him, and she did not move a muscle, not a twitch.
The drone operator was torn—follow the man or stay with the naked female who still hadn’t moved. She decided to follow the man, so she quickly turned the drone again in the direction of the railroad tracks. The man crossed the tracks and walked under cover of some trees on the other side before emerging onto a street that dead-ended before the tracks. He walked on the left side of the street and stopped by a black (possibly navy) car that was parked under a tree. He got in the car, started it, and slowly drove away.
The drone recorded it all.
The drone operator guided the drone back to the naked female, until it hovered about 15 feet above the body. It didn’t look like she’d moved at all.
She used one of her computers to call it in.
“911. What’s your emergency?” The voice on the other end asked.
“There’s a girl h-hurt…or…or…d-dead in Wellesley Woods.”
Drones don't use AI, but they can use AI technology to improve performance and create new applications. Sensors and cameras can aid AI algorithms in navigating, detecting objects, and deciding. We can program machines with AI to do tasks that require human intelligence. While drones can incorporate AI technologies, they are not AI themselves. AI can enable drones to recognize and follow objects, or to join forces with other drones. Combining drones and AI can open up new possibilities in aerial surveillance, search and rescue, and delivery services.
I wrote this short story as the beginning of a novel I had started some years ago. That novel still gathers digital dust bunnies.
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