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Droning on about those congested heavens

Santa’s sleigh is one of the displays for the Naper Lights in Central Park. | submitted

Santa’s sleigh is one of the displays for the Naper Lights in Central Park. | submitted

So I heard not long ago that Santa has some company this year — beyond Rudolph and his herdmates, I mean.

Yep, it’s true: when people log into the website hosted by the North American Aerospace Defense Command Tuesday night to see about St. Nick’s whereabouts, a couple of Canadian fighter jets will show up as escorts to the man in red and his trusty team of pullers. The digital tracking tool www.noradsanta.org will display the pair of CF-18s hovering above the iconic sleigh and its crew, following their ambitious flight plan.

This, of course, has gotten people all worked up into a lather. It’s just something we like to do.

On one hand, those pesky peaceniks are decrying the insertion of the hint of military-borne violence into what has always been the Switzerland of regularly scheduled flights, the journey that is exempt from opposition — unless you count those of us destined to find little more than lumps of coal come Christmas morn.

On the other end of the wack-ometer are those government haters who say there’s no seat for Big Brother on the sleigh, that it’s an overreach of legislative authority to send up backup for the jolly old elf.

The rest of us may well be saying this: What. Ever.

Still, it’s true that the skies seem a bit more congested these days than they used to.

Along with the newly added vocab word, metadata, we have the companion craft of drones, those stealthy buggers suspended above us, keeping an eye on things. These two once-unknown concepts come with the territory in the brave new world of spying on everybody, because some of us are terrorists. We’re not really sure what they’re learning, or what they’re doing with it, but that only creeps us out even more.

That’s not all those rascally drones are up to, though. You have probably heard that the people at amazon.com are talking about having drones deliver their smaller-sized orders at some point in the next few years. This sounds almost too goofy to be true, which of course means it will probably happen.

And that once again brings to mind Gam, my dear late grandmother, the lady who wasn’t exactly a techie and used to say she was not at all convinced that staplers could be trusted. What would she make of it?

Surely the drones crisscrossing the skies over Naperville would draw Gam’s fascination, at the very least.

We received an email about it this week. Apparently local real estate broker Scott Gerami had an epiphany after viewing a YouTube video shot by a tiny camera attached to a drone.

“It occurred to me that a video camera on a drone would be an unusual way to show off the homes I list for sale,” Gerami, who calls himself a gadget guy, said in the email. “It might attract more attention to them, which is exactly what you want in this business. Plus it would give buyers a different perspective on each home and its surroundings — something they couldn’t easily get otherwise.”

Well, I have to admit that’s a pretty cool way to use technology. So I asked around a little bit, curious to know who else is traversing the skies using unoccupied, homemade aircraft. Gerami, after all, has built four of the things already.

Sadly, I did not hit the jackpot I’d hoped for. The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce hasn’t heard of anybody else looking skyward for their next marketing venue just yet. I haven’t heard the topic come up among City Council members since I resumed covering City Hall almost a year ago, so if they’re talking about it, they’re keeping it hush-hush. And local law enforcement offered yet another dead end.

“There has been no discussion to employ drones at the police department,” said Cmdr. Lou Cammiso, spokesman for the Naperville force, in an email.

If Gam were still around, I’m certain she would be all over it. The lady was a frequent flyer way before we’d heard the term, and she certainly knew her way around the business end of an 8mm movie camera. Some of us are simply born before our time.

I guess this is the time of year when our thoughts often turn to loved ones no longer among us, the vast potential of the human spirit, and of course, flights of fancy.

May all of your holiday dreams take wing. And a happy new year, too.

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