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Martha Stewart's Drone War

Timothy Lavin writes editorials on politics, economics, taxation and defense for Bloomberg View. He was a senior editor at the Atlantic.
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Martha Stewart -- media colossus, etiquette dogmatist and erstwhile market-timing prodigy -- has a drone now. And she'd like you to know all the totally non-felonious things normal people can do with these cool new gadgets.

First, she took her drone to the beach, where she had a lot of fun "silently and surreptitiously photographing us and the landscape around us." The landscape of the beach has a lot of interesting things to secretly photograph. Like sand, water and tons of partially nude people who want to be left alone. These photos were "stunning," she says. Hahaha.

Probably the second thing a normal person will notice when flying a drone is that the experience is a big improvement over trying to be a royal landscape architect in early modern France: "It is hard to imagine André Le Nôtre laying out the exquisite landscape designs for Vaux-le-Vicomte, and later the magnificent Château de Versailles, with no high hill to stand on, no helicopter to fly in, and no drone to show him the complexities of the terrain." You said it!

Stewart likes drones so much she even let one of her liegemen use one:

One of my farm workers used his drone, a DJI Phantom flying camera, to capture amazing images of my 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York. Suddenly we could see with astonishing clarity the layout of the open fields, the horse paddocks, the chicken coops, the greenhouses, the hay barn, the cutting gardens and henhouses, the clematis pergola, and the long allée of boxwood. The photos were so good I posted them to my blog on The response was phenomenal!

As phenomenal as drones are for photographing plantations, you might have some lingering qualms about them. For instance, you might ask why it's taking the Federal Aviation Administration so many years to figure out how to regulate them, and why public officials keep saying ominous and apprehensive things about them. Or what happens when terrorists get their own drones. Or when precociously clever drones start building other drones to amuse themselves.

Stewart has a few questions of her own. "Do they raise legitimate privacy concerns? Should they be regulated? Should we have a national debate?"

But: boooooooooring. More importantly, "Drones can be useful tools, and I am all about useful tools. One of my mottos is 'the right tool for the right job.' "

And in so many jobs -- such as illicitly spying on people, agitating people, stalking people, depriving people of due process and raining extra-judicial hellfire on people -- a drone is just the right tool!

Flying robots aren't just a practical imperative, however. "They also showed me what more I can do in the future," Stewart wrote, "and revealed unexpected beauty."

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To contact the author on this story:
Timothy Lavin at

To contact the editor on this story:
Toby Harshaw at