Saturday, August 2, 2014

Drones Are In!

TV thrillers such as 24: Live Another Day and others are including drones more now than ever before. CBS's 60 Minutes did a story of the increase in drone use for fun and commercial endeavors.

Just look at some of the recent books on Amazon with "drone" in the title:

·         Drones (An International Romantic Thriller) (The Maliviziati Series) by Johnny Ray (Nov 17, 2013)
·         Drones: Their Many Civilian Uses and the U.S. Laws Surrounding Them. by Jonathan Rupprecht (Apr 17, 2014)
·         Drone Entrepreneurship by Jerry LeMieux and James Poss (Dec 4, 2013)
·         DRONES: The Truth About Unmanned Ariel Vehicles by Brenda Foster (Jul 23, 2014)
·         Drones: The Real Truth: What You Need to Know About Unmanned Aerial Vehicles & How They Might Affect Your Life... by Sam Cossman (Jul 13, 2014)
·         DRONE by David James Sullivan (Jun 22, 2014)
·         DRONES (SPECTRAL FUTURES) by Olsen J. Nelson (Apr 16, 2013)
·         DJI Phantom 2: How to Fly Drones, Quad Copters, and The Phantom 2 by David Oneal (Apr 10, 2014)
·         Drone: Test Run (A Superhero Short Story) by Jay Stone (May 8, 2013)
·         UAV Pilot - How to Be Ready for the Coming Drone Pilot Job Boom by J.J. Best (Nov 12, 2013)
·         Drones Over Seattle: Wade's People by R.W. Clark and Elliot Whiting (May 8, 2014)
·         The Amazing Potential of Friendly Drones by James Barton and Jonathan Todd (Jun 4, 2014)

The Vengeance Squad Goes to England
My latest novel, The Vengeance Squad Goes to England, includes a drone. The vengeance squad's Chris McCowan put his drone together on the cheap with a toy helicopter and some creative use of webcams. He laughed when he used the word "drone" in talking about the contraption. But it worked.

Here's an excerpt:

I revved up the helicopter's engine with the remote control then realized I didn't have a plan for entering the house. When the woman closed the door, I rushed back to the van so fast I forgot to check the window. I knew Jane had broken it and Virgil had opened it. But was it open wide enough for the drone? Was the curtain out of the way?
I had to go back.
I turned off the motor and grabbed my phone in case Tex said anything. I ran back to the house and stood outside the window listening for a few seconds. Since I didn't hear anything, I opened each side of the window covering as far as possible. I reached in and slid the curtain to the side. The helicopter could probably make its way through the flimsy drapery, but as long as I was here, I might as well make it easier to fly in. I just hoped the woman wasn't in the room where the window was. Knowing Virgil, I didn't think the woman would call the police, but she may have a weapon.
"Look out!"
I jumped while searching for danger around me before I realized it was Tex on the phone in my jacket pocket.
I retrieved the phone. "What happened?" My heart pumped harder now, even though I knew the danger was there, not here. I checked my surroundings again before I moved quickly back to the van with the phone held tightly against my ear.
"We're okay now," he said. "Liz sort of ran off the road."
"What? What do you mean? Are you still moving? How close is Virgil?"
"Whoa. We're okay. We're in the park. The road is narrow and there are no obstructions along the sides. Liz took a shortcut by going straight where the road curved. That's all. Scared me, but we're okay. Sorry you heard me."
"What about Virgil?" I asked.
"He's gaining on us. I hope you can finish your job at the house so we can call the police to help us with Virgil or at least scare him off. How's it going there?"
"Okay. I have the windows open and I'm ready to fly the drone into the house." I didn't want to worry the others with the fact that there was a woman in the house. He had all he could handle there. I could tell him later, after I got the bank information.
"Good," Tex said. "We're counting on you, Doc. Liz, you're on the grass again. Do you see those cows?"
"What is she doing now?" I asked.
"I'm not sure. She's completely off the road and we're heading toward the edge of the cliff. Right where you told us not to go." His voice rose. "Watch the edge, Liz. There are no barriers there. What?"
"What'd she say?" I asked.
"She saw some people there and thought Virgil might act differently with a few witnesses around."
"Okay. That's a good idea. Be careful. I better get this helicopter going. Keep this line open."
"You're too close, Liz. Turn, turn, turn. No, not that way!" Tex was yelling. "Hit the brakes! Stop!"
I couldn't quit listening to their venture long enough to do my job. But, I had to. I needed to get to work finding the bank information. After all, that was the reason my friends had put themselves in danger. I started the helicopter engine, wondering if the fuel tank was full.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
He didn't answer.
"Tex! Are you there?"
There was a long pause.
"We're okay. For now. The front two wheels are hanging over the cliff. Liz has it in reverse but I think we're stuck here. Virgil has parked and is walking toward us."
"What about the people Liz saw there?" I asked.
"They're still a hundred yards away. They're walking toward us now. Some are running."
"Any chance the bookmobile will fall over the cliff?"
"I don't think so, but we moved to the back to weight it down."
"What's Virgil doing now?"
"He's pushing on the back of the bookmobile."
"With his body?"
"Is it moving?" I asked.
"No. Not at all. With two wheels off the ground, it'll take more power than that to move this monster."
"Good. Ask Jane to use her phone to call the police so you can keep this line open. I've got to get this helicopter into the house before it runs out of fuel."
"Uh-oh," Tex said.
"What's happening?"
"Virgil is in his car and he's trying to use it to push us off the cliff. He'd actually kill all of us if he could. Don't worry, it's not working."
"Chris, Jane here. How do I call the police?"
"The emergency number in the United Kingdom is 999," I said, wondering how I knew. Having an over-achieving memory was sometimes fun and sometimes a benefit, but often unnerving.
I heard Liz hollering in the background, but couldn't make out what she said.
"What's Liz saying?" I asked.
"She says there are three of us and we should go grab him and arrest him until the police get here." It was Tex back on the phone.
"Tell her to wait," I said.
"Liz," Tex said. "Take your suitcase. Knock him down like you did in Stratford."
I heard the sound of a gunshot through the phone.
"Everybody get down!" Tex said.
"What's happening?" I asked.
"Just a minute," Tex said.
I waited, but he was silent. The helicopter was ready. I couldn't wait any longer. "Tex! Is everyone okay?"
"No one's hurt. We're just hiding. Liz had just stepped out when Virgil pulled a gun and fired at her. The bullet hit her suitcase. Probably went through it. She dropped it and fell back into the bookmobile. She's okay. Looks scared, but that's all."
"What about the people who were heading toward you?" I asked.
"I'm not sure where Virgil is now and I'm already up pretty high because of this chair. Jane, can you see where the people are now?"
There was another pause and I could hear Jane's voice faintly.
"They've turned away," Tex said. Probably heard the gunshot. I suspect they'll call for help. There's not much on the hill in the way of cover."
I heard the sirens from where I stood, not sounds over the phone. "Someone called for help or Jane's call got through. I hear sirens."
"Good," Tex said. "I hope they get here soon. To scare Virgil off."
More gunshots.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Several gunshots came through our back window." It was a stage whisper.
"Is everyone okay?" I asked.
There was no response. I stared at the phone to see if I still had a connection, but there was none. Tex may have dropped his phone in the excitement of being shot at. Or perhaps, it was worse. I wanted to call back, but I had to finish my mission. Every fiber of my body said I should jump in the van and go to them. Help them. But I couldn't. They were counting on me. They were in harm's way so I could do my part of the job.
I heard sirens, hoping it was help for my friends. I stared at the phone one more time and looked in the direction of where I thought they were. I had no other choice. I grabbed the remote controls, guided the homemade drone into the air and turned it toward the open window at Virgil's house.

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