Date, Time, and Rules for the Lawfare Drone Smackdown

By Benjamin Wittes
Wednesday, July 25, 2012, 10:04 AM

The other day, I was out flying my new drone, practicing for the Lawfare Drone Smackdown. Standing on my front porch, I flew it across the street and hovered over a couple of kids and their father, who were out for a walk in the heat. One of the kids looked up and asked in an awed voice, "Is that a military drone?"

"No," I said, "but it is a drone, and it's taking pictures of you right now."

"You see, Dad?" the kid said to his father. "That is exactly what we need!"

True story.

Yes, the Drone Smackdown has been scheduled. It will take place on Sunday, September 23---when the weather is destined to be at least tolerable---at 2:00 pm at Fort Reno Park in Washington DC. More information on the Smackdown is available here.

So far, we have three committed participants: (1) Alice Beauheim, (2) yours truly, and (3) Paul Rosenzweig and his robot engineer grandchildren.

Here are the rules:

(1) All entries in the Drone Smackdown must be an AR Parrot Drone 2.0, as modified by the entrant. (Sorry, @drunkenpredator. You're welcome to show up, but you can't fly. You're out of our league, even after a couple of martinis.)

(2) Proper modifications include any changes that do not cumulatively exceed $200 in cost and the operation of which do not violate any applicable laws in Washington D.C. Each entrant must fly his or drone personally but will be allowed one copilot to operate any weapons systems or to wave hands fretfully as my drone incinerates the entered drone.

(3) The Drone Smackdown will be held as a flying drone derby, in which all drones will be launched at the same time and the winner will be the last drone capable of flying. As Parrot drones are relatively easy to knock out of the air, it is not enough to cause another drone to fall. A drone that can be relaunched is still in the competition if it can be relaunched within 60 seconds.

(4) Parrot drone battery life is short--no more than about 15 minutes. Consequently, each entrant will be permitted one battery-change-landing, during which any aspect or feature of the drone and its weapon systems may be serviced. The battery-change-break cannot exceed two minutes.

(5) One cannot win the Smackdown by being the last team to run out of fuel. To eliminate a drone from the Smackdown, one has to damage it, not just outlast it. If two or more drones both survive for the duration of both batteries, neither has won.

(6) No drone can be attacked while it is on the ground either following a crash or during its battery-change-break.

(7) No surprise entries will be allowed. If you want to enter a drone in the Smackdown, please contact me at least a week in advance.