Surveillance drones 'welcome in Lyttelton'

Yee ha and reach for the joystick. We've joined the Big Boys Club. We've got, at long last, a drone.

At all previous meetings of the Big Boys Club, the New Zealand delegation has had to act sheepish, sitting in the corner in cardigans, knees together, pretending to be worried about carbon emissions, while the drone-owners swagger a la George W, elbows out, shoulders back, and knees apart to allow for the swing of a bovine scrotum. But not any more.

Admittedly, our drone's not much. It's a wimp of a thing, the size of a tea-tray and armed with nothing more lethal than cameras, like the beast the Aussies use at the cricket to give us close-ups of first slip picking his nose. But it's a start and, as that renowned philosopher, the ANZ Bank, likes to say on my statements, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

Our drone belongs to the police who mean to use it for surveillance. I hope they keep it permanently aloft. This country is woefully undersurveilled. Walk down any street in Europe and you will be tracked by CCTV cameras on the top of tall, smooth poles, but here, nothing. In Lyttelton I doubt there's a single camera covering public spaces. It's only by good luck that in my 25 years here I have hardly been robbed, mugged, beaten, raped or murdered at all.

I'm confident that once the drone's proved its worth, we'll order thousands. The cops could then assign one to hover over the house of every known or suspected burglar, drug-pusher, gang member, finance company fraudster, kiddy fiddler or, indeed, anyone who's a bit iffy.

Every time these low-lifes stepped out of the house to walk the dog they'd see the fizzing little thing perk up and follow them like some sort of guardian angel. It would be only a matter of time before they'd take a pot shot at it, whereupon we'd do the buggers for discharging a firearm and destruction of state property and have them back behind bars where they belong.

With so many drones out there, we could devote a television channel to them and let the public do the watching.

It would be real-time reality TV plus. We'd love it. Just tune in to your local drone zone and see what's going on. The crime rate would plummet and other benefits would ramify.

Imagine, for example, you were about to nip into a pub when you spotted half a dozen drones hanging around over the roof waiting for their charges to emerge. Obviously, you'd head elsewhere, the publican's takings would shrink and pretty soon he'd put a notice on the door banning drone owners, leaving the pub to law-abiding lovelies like you and me and the crims with nowhere to drink but their own front rooms.

And you could prevent them from fraternising by fitting each drone with a klaxon that sounded whenever it came within 50 metres of another one. Brilliant.

The next and inevitable step would be to add a loud speaker and a Taser. If one of the surveilled got up to anything suspicious, instead of the boys in blue having to race round in a squad car, the drone would simply issue a warning, and if the iffy one failed to comply, he'd be zapped from on high. Then Constable Plod could just amble along at his leisure to arrest the charred and gibbering remains.

By then, of course, we'll be near the point the Americans have reached. Their military drones are the best entertainment innovation since nose cam. Laden with missiles, they glide forever over Afghanistan, effectively invisible and as patient as Job.

But the moment Abdul al Fundament sticks his beard over the mud parapet, the image is relayed back to a bunker in Kentucky and alerts some crew-cut, flag-saluting squaddie sitting in front of his console with a bowl of grits.

"Well, I'll be darned," exclaims squaddie, a smile spreading over his beef-fed features. He summons his mates from adjacent booths to share the fun, presses the button on his little joystick and whoompha, it's high fives all round. It's risk-free killing by remote control and an absolute ratings winner on the six o'clock news.

Of course, they zap the wrong buggers from time to time and get a few women and children, but, for one thing, they never know what's hit them and, for another, as my old Gran used to say, you can't make an omelette without a bit of collateral damage. And anyway, you can't hear them scream.

The Press