Science & Technology

American Drone


Drones cover a big world, but the new documentary Flight Plan: Charting a Course for Drones in Washington focuses closely on one state that's already a hub for the devices, exploring users both private and public, from hobbyists to federal agencies.

Drones are making agriculture, commercial fishing, and firefighting cheaper and safer, and have pushed the once-poorest county in Washington into boom times.

But drones have a dark side-they enable government surveillance, police abuse, and the dangerous expansion of the power of innocuous-sounding agencies like the Department of Ecology. Flight Plan doesn't settle the question of whether it's possible to protect privacy without decimating the drone economy, but it does offer a sharp critique of modern journalism. Legacy media, such as newspapers and cable news, tend to breed paranoia around new tech, while new media, such as YouTube, highlight the good news. -Zenon Evans