Fiction: Parrot AR


Parrot wowed the world a couple of years ago when it launched its AR.Drone flying “quadricopter,” a helicopter-like smartphone-controlled drone with four rotors. Now the company is showing off AR.Drone 2.0 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Like the earlier model, this one can be controlled via a WiFi-connected smartphone or tablet. But it has a new high-definition camera, a new piloting mode, increased stability, and a new look. It also includes new video recording and flight data sharing options.

He pulled out his tab, flashed it on, and flipped through the screens to get to his Parrot app. He glanced around the cafe, then typed in his ID and password. He was ecstatic that this day had finally arrived.

He selected the new order pathway. Punched through various questions to the select the target, size, package. He ignored the offer to upgrade for just a hundred bucks more – that’s where they got you. He squinted to read the order confirmation page, made sure to purchase insurance, then hit the ‘submit’ button.

Within minutes, the auction was over. An Avenger drone had won. The info screen revealed it to be a minority-class disabled veteran, which gave it several additional points in the contractor bidding process.

The target appeared on the video feed. The Avenger pinged the local zone for instructions as to how to proceed. Flying into protected zones to deliver packages used to be a contentious and delicate process, and had directly led to the undoing of the American foray into Pakistan a decade ago.Things were more automated now, less reliant on human diplomacy.

To make things even simpler, the host network accepted Paypal. Currency fragmentation could have delayed or worse, compromised the entire enterprise. The worst were zones that variable valuations, dependent on how much each subscriber produced every day. Those calculations could get messy. Not the case here, however. This was straightforward.

He sat back and waited, sipping his coffee, thinking of that awful, humiliating moment. God he hated her.

The Avenger then pinged the zone server to check on the target’s drone retainer. Zones had long ago recognized that shooting down a moving, hostile object was a capital intensive task, one that did not lend itself to the guarantees of safety they were fond of making. Some of the tier-three zones had tried to make do with anti-aircraft systems, but angry family members had retaliated one too many times by blowing up corporate infrastructure, and the number crunchers had put a stop to it.

So they had taken to remote hacking – but that proved easier with the older, open brained drones. Now they had taken to simply bribing the drones in real-time, and charging their subscribers a hefty fee for this protection. Some of the tier-one zones came with the free option to turn the drone around on the sender.

In stroke of good luck, the target had not kept up with her drone retainer payments, and coverage had lapsed. The Avenger freely swooped through the air defense network, trading green blinks along the way. It then cycled through its arsenal, noting that the option for minimal collateral be set. Then it cross-checked the target’s identity and her location against three different monitoring servers.

It fired.

The Pyre shattered on impact. The fragments distributed themselves throughout various levels. A pause, and the building fireballed. The lawn and homes around it remained untouched. The drone fired a beacon. It embedded itself on the front lawn, next to a tricycle.

In it, in a dozen languages, was a name that was ostensibly responsible for the attack. This is where the insurance paid off. Had he not purchased it, the name would have been his. Now it was one selected at random from a sales server. With it, were instructions as to how to order return fire.

He watched it all as he finished his cup of coffee. Memories flashed through his head. Of walking in on them. The shouting. The anger. Leaving her, him, the kids there. As the Avenger rejoined the swarm, a notification flashed onto his tab. It read “Delivery confirmed.”  He smiled for the first time in years, and left a five star review.

Part of my ongoing startup dystopia series. Previous installments here.

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  • nof.io (@nof)
    Feb 1, 2012

    Fiction: Parrot AR http://t.co/xcQpxRbn

  • Juan Mateos Garcia (@JMateosGarcia)
    Feb 1, 2012

    “@shloky: startup dystopia series. http://t.co/ho7rPM14 Stars Parrot’s @ardrone .”future use cases for contemporary tech” via @bruces

  • Saw a video of these online the other day….made me think of you before your story popped up on my RSS feed. Interesting and VERY creepy concept.

    Well done.

    • Shlok Vaidya
      Feb 1, 2012

      😉 Thanks. Drones are fun, just not in the wrong hands.

  • These are good. I like the structure and brevity. Have you considered trying to get something along these lines published in the Nature “Futures” section. They’re very similar length and general style.

    Also; have you read

    • Shlok Vaidya
      Feb 8, 2012

      Thanks, I’ll check it out. Cranking hard on finishing the book for now. (As a regular commenter, you should sign up for the mailing list, would love your feedback.)

  • the daniel (@thedaniel)
    Feb 16, 2012

    @m1k3y @ales_kot you might like this: Fiction: Parrot AR | Shlok Vaidya http://t.co/duPpSLAO

  • Ales Kot (@ales_kot)
    Feb 16, 2012

    FICTION: PARROT AR ( by @shloky ): http://t.co/VhSe4hzB

  • (@ales_kot) (@ales_kot)
    Mar 4, 2012

    “…it launched its AR.Drone flying “quadricopter,” a helicopter-like smartphone-controlled drone…” http://t.co/VhSe4hzB

  • Kris Kotarski (@kotarski)
    Mar 29, 2012

    Still my favourite from @shloky’s startup dystopia series… Fiction: Parrot AR http://t.co/gAn5fyOD

  • John Mast-Finn (@jmfinn)
    Jul 11, 2012

    Can’t wait for @itsDanielSuarez new book about drones “Kill Decision”? Read @shloky’s great short “Parrot AR” http://t.co/BwVv6kNn

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