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Drone-obsessed adults need to grow up and stop causing havoc for people with their flying toys

The Independent logo The Independent 31/12/2018 Will Gore
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Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Here we go again. Less than two weeks after apparent drone activity forced the closure of Gatwick Airport, now the Severn Bridge has been shut after a drone enthusiast flew his gadget from the top of the structure.

At least on this occasion the closure was short-lived – the crossing between England and Wales reopened after mere hours, whereas the three-day Gatwick shutdown led to nigh on 1,000 flights being delayed, diverted or cancelled.

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Given the minimal level of disruption, those who love a good conspiracy theory may find rather less to get their teeth into over the Severn Bridge incident than they did in response to the Gatwick chaos.

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Sussex police certainly didn’t help themselves in the earlier case, first by appearing to question whether there had actually been any drone activity at all, then by arresting (and subsequently releasing without charge) an innocent couple. Still, the pre-Christmas disarray at London’s second biggest airport proved ripe for conspiracists.

Three competing ideas – at least – have done the rounds. The premier theory appears to be that the fiasco was a “false flag” operation by the government, designed to deflect attention from how badly the Brexit negotiations are going. With MPs being slated for tootling off on their Christmas holidays, the ruination of everyone else’s had added piquancy.

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The “false flag” cry of course has broader currency as a handy way to pin almost anything on the government of the day, or other shady networks of authority. Novichok in Salisbury? “False flag” (and also not novichok, by the way). The Finsbury Park mosque attack committed by Darren Osborne? “False flag” operation to demonise far-right groups. 7/7, 9/11 – “FALSE FLAG, FALSE FLAG!”

Ironically, the flag that US astronauts jammed into the moon in 1969 was real – but the “moon” was false.

If you’re not keen on the Gatwick as Brexit distraction theory, there is an neat variation on the theme, which is that the turmoil was planned to demonstrate just how awful a no-deal departure from the EU will be. Whether the people behind the operation were agents of Theresa May, desperately trying to win approval for her deal, or were shadowy deep-state Remainers depends on your point of view.

Not that conspiracy theories all point the finger of blame at the government. Another suggestion is that the incident was arranged simply to discredit drones – either by those who have a vested interest in keeping them far away from airports (the capitalist travel industry); or by those wanting to highlight the need for better methods of combatting their dangers (the police, security firms).

It won’t surprise you to learn that I’m not buying any of this. But then, as part of the MSM/establishment/metropolitan elite, I’m in on the game right?

Actually, I say I’m not convinced. But there is one element of that last theory which I fancy a bit – and that’s about the discrediting of drones. Not that I think Gatwick was closed in a bid to bring drones into disrepute. But I do think perhaps the time has come to call into question the whole drone thing.

Sure, everyone likes to have a hobby, but the drone phenomenon is yet another example of adults being so desperate not to grow up that they find an outsize toy and pretend it’s a constructive way to pass the time – standing in a field (or at the top of the Severn Bridge), twiddling your thumbs in a moderately dextrous way, possibly taking a nice photo if you have a camera on your drone but otherwise just flying it around in a slightly snazzier loop than a kid with a balsa wood plane.

Gallery: Best drone photos of 2018 (Photo Services)

Now, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, you might think I’ve got an unseen agenda here. Maybe I’m bitter that I got a pair of shoes for Christmas and am trying to guilt my family into getting me a buzzy, flying thing next time. Perhaps I have shares in a firm of model train makers which is going out of business thanks to the fashion for drones.

Or maybe I’m just a misery guts who thinks people with drones (along with people who come up with absurd conspiracies) ought to be doing something better with their lives. Sometimes, the obvious explanation is the right one. 

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