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Using an Aerial Drone to Walk Your Dog: Cool or Just Creepy?

Last week's viral sensation was this video of an aerial drone taking a dog for a walk. Should dog walkers worry about their jobs? Probably not.

 |  May 27th 2014  |   11 Contributions


Aerial drones seem to be the future. Actually, scratch that. They're the present. Drones are increasingly used for lots of things. They've grabbed the headlines because some of the ways they're being used can be very scary, like allowing the government to bomb distant countries by remote control. However, the basic tech is so cheap and accessible that their non-bombing uses include crop dusting and simply annoying the neighbors for fun and/or profit.

As of this writing, I'm undecided about whether Amazon's plan to use drones for delivery falls into the sinister or boring/obnoxious side of the equation.

And, of course, you can use drones to walk your dog. That's not something that had occurred to me before last week -- or, really, to anyone I know -- but apparently it occurred to Jeff Myers. Myers picked up a drone at Bed Bath and Beyond (apparently you can do that now), tied a leash to it, and sent it out into the neighborhood to walk his Golden Retriever. Of course, he made video of it and put it on the Internet, because that's what we do now.

By his own account, Myers' dog was a little bit, uh, ambivalent about the whole experience.

"Goldens are really well trained and I think she was freaked out enough by what was happening that she just went along with it," he told a writer from Motherboard.

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Myers's route-mapping software impressed some viewers, and even got some developers to contact him, but it's just a special effect for the video.

The video has gotten a lot of attention and commentary all over the Internet, but there's one problem: It's at least partially a fake. The video shows Myers entering a route into a mapping program and sending the drone and dog on their way. But apparently, the mapping software is only for appearances; Myers followed along and controlled the drone with his phone.

That's just as well, because any dog lover can immediately spot one glaring flaw with the drone doggie-walking plan: Who's going to clean up the poop? While the technology for spying on demonstrations or performing long-distance assassinations via drone is relatively advanced, there has been little work in teaching the devices poop-scooping skills. Attached to the drone, Myers' dog would be free to walk along the streets, leaving a trail of evenly spaced turds along the entire route like some coprophiliac version of Hansel and Gretel. Remember, drones aren't the only form of high-tech surveillance. Nowadays, the idea of doing DNA tests on stray dog poop to track down the owners is becoming more popular.

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Myers's drone in flight, with leash attached.

And then, of course, there's the more abstract problem of the human-dog bond. As noted before, Myers' dog seemed a little weirded out by having a robotic helicopter attached to her collar, but she tried to be a good sport and went along with it. But do you really want your dog to start bonding with a drone instead of you? Part of the whole walking process is that the dog gets some human attention, even if it's from a professional dog walker.

Myers admitted to Motherboard that it's not really practical for the moment, but he does imagine that it might work in the long run.

"The long-term vision was, what if we could make every part of Manhattan have a bike lane and a dog lane, and then you'd have these drones tied to them who could go walk your dog to your mother who lives on the Upper West Side," he said. "Obviously, it's a dumb idea, but wouldn't that be cool?"

Of course, it's hard enough to get cities to put bike lanes into their streets, never mind a second lane for dogs, so that's probably not happening any time soon.

What do you think? Does the idea of using drones to walk your dog fall into the "cool" category, or the "weird/creepy/evil" side of things?

Via Motherboard and Vimeo

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