Steelhammer: Droning on about drones

Perhaps it’s my rural roots, but 30 years ago, if I heard the word “drones” mentioned, I thought of male honeybees instead of the down-sized remote-controlled spy planes and missile platforms that are now a source of international debate.

Drones associated with bee colonies are also involved in sudden, usually indiscriminate death, but unfortunately for them, it’s their own. On the plus side, they make my job as a bush-league humor columnist in a dying medium seem relatively attractive.

The drone’s early career would be a job recruiter’s dream. The pampered male bees are fed and cared for by a colony of female bees, and allowed to lounge around the hive in their drone caves without ever having to complete a (ahem) honey-do list. Their only purpose in life is to rest up, drink plenty of fluids and be on hand in case the colony’s queen bee dies and a new “virgin” queen takes her place. When that happens, the new queen almost immediately requires the services of a few good drones willing to make like birds and bees in an aerial mating session known to beekeepers as a “nuptial flight,”which usually takes place 200 to 300 feet in the air.

Drones taking part in a nuptial flight and managing to qualify for the 300-Foot-High Club only have an instant to enjoy their membership benefit: When the new queen bee deems the mating session complete, she rips out her suitors’ most private drone parts, plus a chunk of surrounding tissue, and their lives become not only obsolete, but over.

Come winter, those drones who failed to hook up with the new queen are thrown out of the hive by worker bees not willing use any more of their energy giving star treatment to lazy, deadbeat roommates.

An article in Friday’s Columbus Dispatch about a guy from the suburb of West Linden who was spotted posting a “lost drone”poster on a utility pole, right below a “lost Yorkie” poster, got me started on this topic. The helicopter-style drone’s failsafe return feature, which was supposed to kick in if the drone veered off course, failed, and the camera-equipped chopper climbed to about 100 feet in altitude, and flew out of sight.

As the Dispatch writer noted, it could be a sign of the times.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering where, when and if Amazon still plans to roll out its “Prime Air” drones to deliver small parcels of products to customers living in the vicinity of the company’s warehouses. If the service ever enters the West Virginia airspace, the drones will have to be armored to fend off shotgun pellets.

Maybe the company should perfect the system by practicing airdrops of Nickelback discs to terrorist hot spots overseas.

Or maybe not. I do drone on.

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