School Warns of Talking Drone Flying Over Playground, Luring Children

When the telegraph was first invented, it was so strange and new, people worried it would disrupt the world’s weather patterns. And as I learned at a dinner last night with (name drop!) Nadine edtirkrzky
, former head of the ACLU, when the internet was in its infancy, the government demanded grand censorship powers, to protect the potential porn hub (as it were) from corrupting children.  But The Supreme Court ruled in favor of free speech, thus allowing the web to flourish.

All of which is to say, fearing that new technology is going to unleash hell on earth and corrupt our kids is nothing new. Recall that even the newfangled game of pool that starts with P, that rhymes with T, that stands for Trouble was going to do the same thing in the Music Man. With that perspective, I read this story from 6ABC with some skepticism:

School officials in Ohio are on alert following reports of a drone being used to try and lure children off school grounds.

Children and adults reported seeing the drone at Windemere Community Learning Center in Akron over the weekend.

The principal said several witnesses even heard a voice coming from the drone, attempting to coax the children off the playground.

The district sent a letter warning parents to have an adult accompany children to the playground.

If a drone is trying to lure kids to some undisclosed location, isn’t that kind of easy for law enforcement to trace? And, on the flip side, isn’t it kind of hard to target just the kids you want, if literally anyone on the ground can hear your message? Isn’t it kind of inefficient, having to steer the drone AND make sure it’s easy enough for kids to follow, AND land it some place secluded enough for a crime, but open  enough to ensure a safe landing?

This bizarre story is not questioned by the media, because whether or not the threat is real, doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it allows TV to give us yet another “kids in danger” story.  And of course, the advice given to parents is always the same — just as it has been in all the reports of “near” abductions by sex traffickers at the local store (that never actually occurred): PARENTS, NEVER LET YOUR KIDS OUT OF YOUR SIGHT!

Never give them any free, unsupervised time. They are beset by strangers who want to snatch them, from land and sea and sky. Well, maybe not the sea. (That’s next week.) – L.




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29 Responses to School Warns of Talking Drone Flying Over Playground, Luring Children

  1. Theresa Hall October 11, 2017 at 11:42 am #

    I haven’t heard of any drones that can talk. I doubt a playground full noisy playing kids would notice such a thing.

  2. Rebel mom October 11, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

    Drones are a stupid and terrible invention but not for this reason.

  3. Hazel October 11, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    Whether this story is real or not, it’s not sensible to follow a disembodied voice coming out of a drone or anything else, nor is it sensible to go off the playground during the day when you’re at school. Teach kids what is sensible and hopefully they won’t do daft things.

  4. Hazel October 11, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

    Oh, and some predators aren’t after specific kids, they’ll just get them where they can and are quite opportunistic rather than planning with a particular target in mind. Like any other criminals, predators vary.

    I’m not suggesting that one would use a drone to try and get hold of children, mind you. I have no idea, but I’d think there would be easier ways. This method does sound a bit overly complicated and risky!

  5. JL October 11, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

    Hazel, this isn’t even happening during school hours. These are kids playing at the school playground during the weekend and evening hours. The school principal sent a letter to all the parents telling them to always accompany their children to the playground and remind them of “Stranger Danger” rules. First, we already know that Stranger Danger is ineffective and second, since when would a child consider flying technology a stranger?

  6. DrewE October 11, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

    It’s certainly plausible that a drone could have some sort of speaker arrangement (either built-in or carried along as cargo) to permit a limited public announcement sort of thing.

    If the reports are accurate, that there was a voice that was emanating from the drone, I would guess that the drone operators were children with motives not much more sinister than perpetrating a prank. It certainly sounds like something that some of my friends growing up would do had the technology been available.

  7. Dora October 11, 2017 at 1:04 pm #

    Hmmm, the attack of the Kidnapping drone… all joking aside, IF there was a dangerous man sending drones around to attract children, maybe telling the children that following a drone is a bad idea might be enough, but nobody would believe that. I lived in a house where it was possible to cross over to the office half of the building. When we moved in, the office was getting renovated and the kids had the time of their lives running around in the big empty rooms. A month before the employees would return, people started asking me how I was going to stop the kids from crossing over and disturbing everyone. They suggested fitting looks that would stop the doors in one direction, but one of the offices needed to be moved. I kept telling people not to bother, that I would simply explain to the kids they couldn’t do it anymore. I got scoffed at and some people actually got irritated at my unwillingness to cooperate. The kids never burst into offices thought… after a few months, I told them no one had thought them capable of such a feat; you should have seen their disbelief!!

  8. Theresa Hall October 11, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

    Even if it is possible to get a drone to talk is it possible a playground full of noisy kids will even hear it? When I was kid if they wanted your attention those in charge had to tell to get it. The drone might get attention not being a every day sight.

  9. Larry October 11, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

    Ironically… I work in the drone security field (i.e. seeing them as a threat). I’m very interested in the story from a professional perspective, but I’m hesitant to believe one repeated news story and jump on the hysteria bandwagon. I’ve seen several drone stories that turned out to be false.

    I haven’t come to a conclusion on this event yet. It certainly is plausible.

    – Open fields like school yards are like cat nip for drone flyers, so a drone being in the vicinity isn’t necessarily a red flag.

    – Finding the operator can be difficult. LE doesn’t yet know how to investigate these events.

    – Yes, drones can be made to talk. A person could add voice playback or transmit the live voice from the ground, through the drone. Either would require a little effort though. So, if this did occur, it would be a deliberate act.

    – Drones are not stupid and terrible. They are doing a lot of good things like teaching kids about science, hauling medical supplies to remote locations, rescuing swimmers, fighting fires, etc. They are a tool subject to the will of the operator.

    – For a child abductor, this would be a sophisticated and risky effort. But, it may work for them… who knows.

    – It might even be a pedo who’s just filming interactions with the kids. This type of (creepy) surveillance is probably the biggest threat to most people. Many states have laws for it now.

    – Drones have certain inherent hazards when flying, so kids (and adults) should admire them from a distance only. If you hear the buzz of a drone, it’s like crossing a street. Look around and make sure someone isn’t about to hit you.

    – If drones become a problem at places like this, then local government needs to step in… and keep the kids outside

  10. Miriam Drukker October 11, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

    And watch out from aliens too!

  11. Roger the Shrubber October 11, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

    ‘– It might even be a pedo who’s just filming interactions with the kids. This type of (creepy) surveillance is probably the biggest threat to most people. Many states have laws for it now.’

    This is a silly interpretation of this alleged event.

  12. Gary October 11, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

    And the award for Laziest Child Abductor goes to…

  13. Miriam Drukker October 11, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

    I wish we just could be more time with the kids, but be able to do something else while we are with them. They need our presence, kids feel safe that they know that the parents are around, but since we have nothing to do while they are around – we tend to meddle… Instead of teaching them skills of how to take care of their own safety – we limit their experiences, until we cannot and then suddenly they are adults…

    I wonder if they should change the law of the age of maturity to something older than 18 (or 21 for alcohol), as kids do not develop their maturity by 18, because they are not given a chance 🙁

  14. Amanda October 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

    Last spring a lady at the local school called 911 saying that an airplane repeatedly kept dive bombing the school. Apparently, she forgot we live in the middle of wheat country and a cropduster was spraying.

  15. K October 11, 2017 at 2:41 pm #

    ‘– It might even be a pedo who’s just filming interactions with the kids. This type of (creepy) surveillance is probably the biggest threat to most people. Many states have laws for it now.’

    I’m a little surprised that this was not the the initial interpretation of the event. Not that I think that’s what happened, but it seems a little more plausible than some sort of high-tech, futuristic Pied Piper scenario, and it seems that the potential privacy concerns with drones are what people are primarily worried about regarding this technology.

  16. Vicki October 11, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

    Gary, I love your comment!

    Amanda: it’s scary how dumb some people can be – I partly attribute the election of the current president to these same people.

  17. aflossygirl8 October 11, 2017 at 4:47 pm #

    I heard that when you download candy crush that you also download a virus that lets creepers see you through your apple phone camera and that the creepers wait for your kid to play with your phone and then unbeknownst to you they start flashing subliminal messages that only kids can absorb and the messages tell your kid “Don’t trust your parents! They are alarmists! They exaggerate imagined danger! They spend all day fantasizing about different ways strangers could touch you.” And then once the kid is programmed he will suddenly start skipping school smoking cigars and chumming with a dude who has donkey ears.
    True Story I Swear

  18. Donald October 11, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

    Many years back, a 16 year old family friend was desperate to get stoned. He didn’t have any money and his usual drug connections were either out of stock or wouldn’t supply to him. In desperation, he smoked nutmeg! 30 years later we still joke about this seasoning that made him sick.

    In essence, he wanted his high. In his desperation he:
    1. Overlooked that facts. (nutmeg is not known as a drug)
    2. He did it anyway.

    I thought of this when I read this story.

    Some people want to find anything that will make them feel scared or outraged.

    “If a drone is trying to lure kids to some undisclosed location, isn’t that kind of easy for law enforcement to trace? “

    1. They overlook facts
    2. They do it anyway

  19. David N. Brown October 11, 2017 at 5:46 pm #

    Years ago, the media talked about whether drones could be used in terrorist attacks (separate from recon for other mischief). I posted an opinion that a drone could be used for assassination, esp against a target in a moving car. If anything, more recent trends have substantially reduced payloads.

    Also, this is another of quite a few abduction scares that are suspiciously similar to reports of UFOs, Mib and the like. From this background, I suspect it will turn out that several kids and maybe an adult or so reported seeing some sort of flying device, but only one or two claimed to have heard it “talk”.

  20. Donald October 11, 2017 at 6:10 pm #

    I don’t have a problem with the talking part of the drone. It’s quite possible there is a speaker onboard. My friends fly drones as though they are riding in them. They have a camera on them that connects to their LCD goggles. They have dogfights with each other and have races through an obstacle course. For the money that they spend on them, you can buy a decent car! They can do amazing things! However, they’re a terrible tool for child abduction.

  21. David N. Brown October 11, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

    @Donald: It seems to me that the big technical prob is that a speaker would have to be louder than the fans and motors keeping the whole thing in the air- most likely a solvable issue, but with a very narrow margin of error. One definite possibility is that someone tried broadcasting an innocuous message which came out so badly that those who heard it at all pieced it together as something ominous.

  22. Donald October 11, 2017 at 8:22 pm #

    They have a vivid imagination. They interpreted this prank as an attempted child abduction. They could interpret a garbled incoherent message as anything. Perhaps ISIS was trying to recruit.

  23. David N. Brown October 11, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

    @donald: Someone could also have mistaken random mechanical noises for a human voice and built up from there, which is where I’d put my money.

  24. Theresa Hall October 11, 2017 at 9:23 pm #

    I just have trouble believing that playground full of kids running around being noisy and loud would be able to even hear a drone that is if you can get one to talk. Getting kids having fun to pay attention to anything but their fun not easy.

  25. Backroads October 11, 2017 at 11:20 pm #

    It’s the AI singularity. Drones gain awareness and go after children.

  26. AmyP October 12, 2017 at 8:52 am #

    Sorry, this is unrelated. However I thought you all might enjoy this article I found today in our local news. It’s about a 14 year old former slave who became a hero in the Battle of New Orleans. Just a reminder about how children are NOT helpless, so much so that they used to serve in times of war (not that I’m advocating for that-just saying).


  27. Dora October 13, 2017 at 9:11 am #

    @Donald: that’ not entirely correct, nutmeg is known as a drug, but not exactly a safe one – not that there is such a thing as a safe drug, but nutmeg has nasty side effects, so really, it’s more of a poisoning than a getting stoned. Nonetheless, nutmeg is known to create a high not unlike lsd. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/large-doses-nutmeg-hallucinogenic-high/story?id=12347815

  28. Agent0013 October 13, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

    I’m surprised that the news didn’t tell people how the little drone might just swoop down and grab the kids and take them off into the air to be dropped from hundreds of feet up or taken miles away never to be seen again. The real world does not matter to them, so you would figure that real physics would not matter either.

  29. Ricky October 17, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    Larry: Well over a year ago An adult man (I would guess late 40s) was flying a drone in a city park. Of course it was a kid magnet. He was very careful to get the kids out of the landing area. Once the drone was on the ground and shut down he invited the kids to have a close look. When it was time for take off he asked the kids to move back. Surprisingly all 8 kids complied perfectly. From this example I see no problems with responsible owner/operators. Unfortunately some will fall into the hands of the “hold my beer and watch this” crowd).