Drone, Speed Racer, drone!

Drone, Speed Racer, drone!

A small UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is launched into the air to do photographic  reconnaissance  of the other side. It’s capable of carrying a light payload, and through a homing signal, can return to a pre-programmed location on its own.

Who built it?

The CIA? Boston Dynamics? The NSA?

“Pops” Racer.

That’s right…”Speed” Racer’s father built a drone into the Mach 5 race car.

There have been other cases where a geeky show appears to have inspired a real-world technology (cellphones and the communicators on Star Trek, for example), but this is one where, seen in retrospect, it’s an amazing prediction of the technology and the use of it.

Speed’s car has a number of special gadgets…or perhaps, an “alphabet” of them would be a better description. Speed pushes a letter on the steering wheel to invoke these special capabilities, as detailed in this

YouTube video

Letter G, the largest and central button, launches the “homing robot”, a bird-shaped drone.

Outside of its biomorhphization, it is functionally very similar to drones we have today, nearly fifty years after the cartoon first aired in the USA.

Once launched, it is remote-controlled by a joystick…and just like today, it takes a skilled pilot/operator. A crook tries operating it, and first crashes it (although it survives the impact, which might not be true of many of today’s drones).

A separate button, labeled “H” and not on the steering wheel, gives it a “return home” command, which it presumably does with limited artificial intelligence.

While I was certainly familiar with both Speed Racer and real-world drones, what suddenly gave me the epiphany connecting the two was news reports about Renault’s concept car…which comes with a drone! That’s when it hit me…a car-launched drone is, for all intents and purposes, Speed Racer’s homing robot.

Time article by Doug Aamoth

Well, maybe not all purposes…Speed’s drone wasn’t weaponized, although it was sometimes used that way (mostly by just flying it into something or someone).

We have the drone: are the tree cutting buzzsaws coming out on next year’s model? 😉

Speed Racer: original first episodes on DVD at Amazon (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

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