The new terrorist arsenal - almost six inches in length!
Trainspotters are terrorists, photographers are terrorists, and now modelmakers are terrorists.
The Landed Underclass has already covered the story of the sneaky criminals who allegedly tried to smuggle contraband into a prison using a toy helicopter. No contraband was found, no CCTV images of this mysterious UFO have been made available, despite the use of infrared cameras and despite the fact that those who are into that sort of thing could identify the make and model of the toy at once, and probably list the shops that sell it.
I once worked with a guy who was into these flying models, and went along a couple of times to see his machinery fly. He, and others, produced some impressive model aircraft, I have to say, but despite his encouragement I stayed on the sidelines watching.
The first reason was cost. The second was danger. I didn't realise these guys had to buy insurance. Not for the model, nobody will insure that, but for the damage it might do. One of these, flown into you, could easily kill you. They are deadly pieces of kit. So these guys were insured for up to a million pounds' worth of damage.
I'm not talking about the tiny little helicopters you see in Tesco for about thirty quid. These things were huge, metal, and powered by some kind of oil (castor oil, I think). They were heavy and they were expensive. A beginner's kit to make one yourself cost about £600. Every time it crashed (and as I was gleefully assured, beginners crash a lot) the repair bill was £100 minimum. That's if it could be repaired.
As for carrying stuff, well I did ask about that. Watching them fly around was all very well, but could they do anything useful? Transport something? A video camera perhaps for aerial views?
Some of the big ones could carry small items, but the problem was balance. If the model was off balance it was impossible to fly. You could fit a payload but it would have to be central, or balanced by another weight somewhere else. Then when the payload was removed, the balance weight would have to go too at exactly the same time. There's also the problem of range and of line of sight - if you can't see it (if it goes behind a prison wall for example) then you can't control it.
So, the story Landed Underclass found has a couple of problems. First, the story claims toy helicopters can be had for £20. In the supermarket sales, yes. They are made of polystyrene, have very limited range and control, and would have serious trouble carrying a pin. To do something like the story claims, you'd be looking at spending £1000 plus. And you'd need an expert to fly it at night. And it would have to have lights so your 'pilot' can see where it is and which way it's facing. And he'd have to be on a ladder so he could see over the wall to land it. Even with all that, you'd be shipping a few ounces of stuff, no more, and anyone who approached the model with its blades turning would lose fingers (if the engine stops, you need a special device to start it again, one that's not generally available in prison). The noise these things make is tremendous. They are not the device of choice for surreptitious delivery of anything.
So, in short, it's a load of bollocks. Someone might have flown a toy helicopter over the prison but they weren't delivering anything. More likely they went off course and had no intention of flying that way. More likely still, it never happened at all.
On the other hand, one of these helicopters could easily carry a modern mini-video camera with SD card storage. I have a couple of those. They weigh next to nothing and they'll run for four hours on two AA batteries.
So, are these models about to be controlled, or perhaps banned, to stop super-skilled model-makers delivering a gram of heroin to a prison?
Or are they about to be controlled, or perhaps banned, because we can use them to film from the air?
Remember, the authorities are already scared of street photographers and trainspotters. Is it such a stretch to imagine they are also scared of aerial photography?
Watch out for those radio controlled cars and trucks. They can carry much bigger cameras.
You know, I might call in to that model shop on Monday. Just to browse...