Drones are on our side.

Well, at least when they are our drones killing evil-doers in distant realms.

But that American habit also makes it easier for the evil-doers to recruit new terrorists to replace the ones our drones have killed.

And a drone is definitely not on the side of law and order when it carries cellphones, marijuana, cigarettes (the tobacco kind) and other verboten items over prison walls.

Just such a drone didn't quite make it over the Lee Correctional Institution wall in Bishopville in April, crashing into bushes outside the facility. But an Associated Press story about that rising airborne menace in Thursday's Post and Courier shows that in this high-tech age, prison officials not only have to worry about inmates breaking out. They have to worry about drones bringing contraband in.

Meanwhile, we all should worry about not just the benefits but the drawbacks of high-tech gadgetry. For instance:

Looking up stuff, playing games and exchanging messages on the Internet is habit-forming fun.

Yet what about somebody somewhere checking up on your choice of websites? What about the National Security Agency collecting our electronic communications?

At least police in our community aren't using drones to keep an eye on us.


In 2008 the city of Charleston Police Department did apply for a federal grant to fund two unmanned helicopters that can "hover quietly and stream video back to the ground, like the drones used by the military in Iraq, but much less expensive and without weapons."

Though that grant wasn't awarded, and those drones aren't hovering over us yet, Chief Greg Mullen said of them in a Post and Courier story six months ago: "It's where law enforcement is headed. The military has been using them for years."

So is knowing that our police are getting more like our military reassuring?

How about knowing that the CIA has spied on U.S. senators, as reported on our front page Friday?

OK, so drones can elevate perspectives, as one did last month at the wedding of Rep. Sean Patrick Mahoney, D-N.Y., to longtime partner Randy Florke in Cold Spring, N.Y.

But the Federal Aviation Administration, which bans unauthorized commercial drone use on the grounds of air safety, is investigating that private-sector mission.

Parker Gyokeres, the man hired to get that elevated perspective, told ABC: "I'm just a guy with a single multi-copter in the trunk of my car who was trying to do my job."

And too many Americans are just trying to find jobs because so many new-fangled gizmos are making so many old-fashioned ways to make a living obsolete.

Of course, our species' relentless quest for more effective means of slaughtering each other has long driven technological advances - including drones.

That includes the chilling 20th century breakthrough that traumatized us Baby Boomers who grew up in the shadow of "The Bomb."

Nuclear weapons still top our technological Pandora's boxes. North Korea still has some. Iran's still gaining on getting some.

But if we can make it until Wednesday without detonating another one in hostile action, we'll stretch our incredible, long-shot, no-nuke-war streak to 69 years.

So maybe we can handle advanced technology.

And maybe we Americans worried about drones that soon will be hovering over us should be happy we're not Israelis or Palestinians worrying about something much worse zooming down at us.

Maybe we S.C. coasters can even resist letting Tropical Storm Bertha blow up a frenzy of misplaced panic.

And while we're on the weather subject, lest you forget that technology can work positive wonders, ponder this glorious union of two words:

Air conditioning.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.