‘Didn’t you always want a bird on a leash?” asked the young man. He was wearing a dinosaur hoodie, with soft fabric spikes down the back, and holding a piece of tape about 10 feet long. At the end was an airborne personal drone—four hoops fused together, propellers inside each—buzzing obediently behind him. The crowd of a hundred, at this month’s DroneGames in San Francisco, was rapt. A drone as a pet! We all wanted one.
The competition, a sneak peek into what’s coming in the new year, included 12 teams, with 43 programmers from Twitter, Stanford and beyond. The winner wrote a virus that installed itself in a drone and made it go crazy. He called it “amuckcopter.” But don’t let that throw you. Drones are more peaceable than you think—or they can be.