Stuck in very tall trees, entangled in hair, lost somewhere over an enormous swamp: Drone crashes and mishaps have become as predictable a part of Christmas as colorful lights and inflatable lawn Santas. I first took notice of these darkly hilarious stories of drone mishaps on social media in 2015. I’ve been collecting these holiday drone tales of woe on Twitter ever since, with the #dronecrashmas hashtag.
Back when #dronecrashmas began, I assumed that drones would enjoy a brief and sparkling heyday as the Cool New Toy for a year or so, and then everyone would move onto some other inexpensive and annoying trend. (Remember hoverboards?)
Yet 2017’s DroneCrashmas appeared (from my unscientific observation) as calamity-filled as 2015 and 2016. While I have yet to see official figures on 2017’s drone holiday sales, this is suggests it was a good season for drone manufacturers.
The 2017 DroneCrashmas Tweets fell into a few general themes, which have held true since 2015. Like most great traditions, DroneCrashmas mishaps appear not to change much from year to year.
Dads are the scourge of DroneCrashmas. I have a few theories about this. Spouses and desperate adult progeny are always searching for Dad Gifts that aren’t cotton socks decorated with poorly stitched golf clubs. A drone is different, fun, something that the family can do together, and is often relatively inexpensive, with many small hobby models retailing for less than $100. Unfortunately for drones and American airspace, dads—in my experience—believe incorrectly that they are eminently competent at all things technological.
A popular gift comes into contact with totally undeserved patriarchal confidence and voila: We see drones smashing into garages, drones wreaking havoc in nursing homes, and drones harassing innocent children. Please provide adult supervision to your dad at all times while he is operating a drone.
Can't decide if I'm embarrassed or proud. Talked to Dad who is in the nursing home. He said he almost got kicked out. I asked why. Turns out that he was flying his new drone around and almost broke a sprinkler head on the ceiling. Nurse said it's a felony offense to tamper w/ em— Coach Fri (@JesseFrisinger) December 25, 2017
RIP to my dad’s new luxury drone who after two min of glorious flight now rests at the bottom of the vermillion river :(— guacEMOLY (@emolymccoco) December 25, 2017
whelp. dad got a drone which was for "everyone" but let's be honest, he mostly just wanted a drone.— Rina C (@Rinasaurus_Rex) December 25, 2017
proceeded to run it into the ceiling, stripping off the popcorn shit and sending it flying all over the living room.
so that's how christmas is going.
So one of my dads Christmas presents was a drone so far he’s hit me with it and scratched my new laptop screen.😂— mak (@MakDaddy1416) December 25, 2017
Bought dad small drone. Added batteries to remote. Dad proceeded to avoid directions completely and turn it all on. Drone hits ceiling, crashes into ceiling fan, and falls behind couch. Status TBD.— Bailey Jordan (@brjordann) December 25, 2017
Oh God, it’s in my hair, help me
Four swiftly whirling plastic propellers and one full head of hair—that’s a dangerous combination. (I have, I admit, managed to get my own mini-drone stuck in my hair, but at least it wasn’t on Christmas and no one saw me do it). DroneCrashmas Twitter is rife with examples of daughters, wives, grandmas, and innocent pets with uncomfortable drone attachments. Maybe we should just lean into it and make drones a hot new hair accessory, like the ships worn by the noble ladies of Versailles.
All I was trying to do was get a drink and this Shithead flies a damn drone right into my pony tail 🤣🤣🤣🤣 actually had to cut it out by the end 😭😖🤣 #oneforthebooks #playingaroundhasgonetoofar #couplegoals pic.twitter.com/tF31lfJVVG— Aly (@hazedandfit710) December 28, 2017
I’m literally crying. My brother flew his drone into my sisters hair 😂😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/B647NF6s6u— J ✨ (@Jordyn_Kelly) December 25, 2017
Getting your son a tiny drone is all fun and games until it gets sucked up in your hair , you must now either cut the hair or the blades— Mackenzie McKee (@DouthitKenzie) December 26, 2017
Nathan was flying his drone, then my dad shot it down with a nerf gun and it got stuck in my hair so bad we almost had to cut it out. 🙃— katie jones (@katielj17) December 25, 2017
The begrudging walkabout
Dad or your doofus brother quickly loses his drone and the entire family is quickly press-ganged into leaving their warm and cozy houses to look for it. Distress ensues. Sometimes the original owner of the drone goes back inside, leaving a parent to continue the long and thankless search. More distress ensues.
I'm risking my life scaling these treacherous cliffs for this Christmas drone and the pilots have long since gone indoors to play Xbox. pic.twitter.com/X0GwQlBxTJ— Janet, using pronouns she her hers (@JanetJlake) December 25, 2017
tell me why i got aaron a drone for christmas and he flew it for 5 minutes hit the neighbors tree and now we can’t find it, we were looking outside looking for 2 hours.🙄— abbey (@abbey_vergata) December 25, 2017
Shout out to my 44 year old neighbour who ran around the estate in his jammies looking for his new drone in everybody’s backyards. That’s what Christmas is all about x— Áine 🦊 (@rosefrankiefox) December 27, 2017
Spent an hour getting scratched up by scrub oak and thorns looking for David’s drone that he crashed. Merry Christmas!— Tony Young (@TonyEYoung) December 26, 2017
My dad got a drone for Christmas, played with it for 5 minutes then lost it so we’ve all spent all day looking for it love this x— carlos (@CarlosNelmes) December 25, 2017
my brother lost his drone in the woods. we’ve been looking (and still are) since 2 o’clock and it’s 18° pic.twitter.com/oqOdDS0QOc— briii (@brilee_henson12) December 26, 2017
Getting the damn thing down: the creative way!
So, you’ve actually found your drone after roughly 40 hours of frozen searching. It’s in a tree. Of course. What do you do? Well, you can try shooting at it with a crossbow. Or a shotgun. You can also try cutting the tree down with an axe or a chainsaw. (Poor tree.)
On this episode of Owens family Christmas: we are currently shooting a crossbow to get the new drone out of a tree— Megan Owens (@_megan_danielle) December 25, 2017
Update: still in tree. New plans put into place for tomorrow to extract the drone https://t.co/IwJdufHeDv— Megan Owens (@_megan_danielle) December 26, 2017
No one will honestly believe how hillbilly my family is but listen. My cousin bubba just got a drone for Christmas and during its first flight it got stuck in a tree so my stereotype drunk uncle Rick shot it out of the tree with his 20 gauge shotgun. #merryredneckchristmas— teiranda sings 💋 (@theTparty_) December 25, 2017
One of my cousins kids got their new drone stuck in a tree so my uncle tried to climb it to get it down. They couldn't reach it and decided to just cut the whole tree down lmaoo— Bella🌹 (@TansAndTequila) December 25, 2017
so we got a drone for christmas and my step dad was flying it outside and got it stuck in a tree so he cut the tree down. i’m done. goodnight.— Chloe Mowry (@chloeeemowryy) December 25, 2017
As a reminder: Don’t drink and drone.
Bring in reinforcements!
Some people actually do call the fire department or the police to get their drone unstuck on Christmas. These people are unfamiliar with what actually constitutes an emergency. Do not do this. As a side note: Anyone who wants to make quick money on Christmas should invest in a large ladder and some clever online advertising.
We have just had the following 999 call..— West Mercia OCC (@WestMerciaOCC) December 25, 2017
Contact Handler- Hello caller what is your emergency?
Caller- I have just lost my new drone can an officer come and help look for it.
This is not an appropriate use of 999, even on Xmas day!!#MakeTheRightCall pic.twitter.com/Bu0fAEe4Lg
#dronecrashmas is a thing. Please, don’t call 9-1-1 if you lose your drone. There maybe more critical calls holding.— Tommy Schroeder (@TommyFirePIO) December 25, 2017
Thank you to the Bangs Volunteer Fire Department who came and saved Christmas by getting Caydens drone out of the tree. This Christmas morning is one to remember.— Jacob Gil (@jacob4kids) December 25, 2017
Please Retweet so these heroes get the recognition they deserve.
Merry Christmas pic.twitter.com/pkYD3KjGIt
But at least these people know where their drones are—even if they can’t reach them.
Beautiful yet excruciatingly fleeting memories
A drone lifts into the sky. The family oohs. The gift-receiver and the gift-giver are united in joy, in peace. The drone flies higher, and higher, and higher, and … it’s gone. Forever. Perhaps these drones are just teaching us to appreciate the moment, the things we have right now?
Merry Christmas, I got a drone and it was dark but I flew it and it said to hit the "return home" button cause it was gonna die. So I hit it, it flew very high up, and then got caught in a branch about 20 ft high. + pic.twitter.com/tnkyZKGCf8— Tori Silva (@ItsToriSilva) December 26, 2017
Xmas Drone Test Flight #1 Report:— Patrick McDevitt (@pfmcdevitt) December 27, 2017
Flight time: 4 seconds
Height: 50 feet
Trees hit: 1
Ladders required for extraction: 1
Conclusion: grounded until spring
So here's another edition of #dronecrashmas: spending 24 hrs of getting it to work and then at 3rd attempt it goes up, gets caught by wind and blown over trees and rooftops of neigbouring houses, never to be found again. Well, till this summer probably.— Jochem (@jochemfloor) December 25, 2017
Dad got two drones for Christmas. He spent an hour and a half putting them together and lost them both within 2 minutes— Amanda Bland (@amandabland21) December 25, 2017
If your family can’t find it, it’s time to turn to the community.
Just help me find it
Check your local Craigslist or the equivalent community site for your area—odds are you’ll see plenty of desperate listings for AWOL drones.
Last Christmas (yesterday)I gave you a drone but the very next day you flew it away next year to save me from tears I’ll give you bubble bath instead .... red lost drone syma last seen maple grove york 😂— Michaela Dickson (@MichaelaDickson) December 26, 2017
Local spread the word page is full of “we’ve lost a drone if anyone sees it...” FFS people take it to an open field to learn to fly it— Chels (@bloss59) December 26, 2017
Anyone lost a drone on the Weston Coyney area? Found it on my drive this morning. pic.twitter.com/xprXNcaJtV— Lee Burgess (@leeburgess77) December 26, 2017
I believe the appropriate protocol is to stand on your neighbour’s doorstep, looking suitably disconsolate and penitent, then say: “Please may we have our drone back?”. It’s a modern variation on a traditional Scouse greeting.— Stephen McParlin (@McParlinStephen) December 26, 2017
Why did you fly it in there?
People who get Christmas drones often decide that their maiden flight should be inside. In some ways, this is a good idea: A drone flown inside is a lot less likely to end up two counties over, or on the president’s lawn. But drones that are larger than the palm of an average hand can wreck havoc on your interiors. In particular: Please don’t fly in the kitchen. Think of the desserts.
Just flew my drone for the first time... in my kitchen (because it was sooo windy outside) Smashed it into the cooker & then the roof but It survived. I'm going to try take it outside with me now... Probably going to come home without a drone.— Ally Law (@AllyALaw) December 25, 2017
It's not really Christmas until someone accidentally tries to crash-land their drone in the perfectly baked Christmas pies before dessert is served.— Jaklyn Larsen (@iamjakz) December 26, 2017
The very ineffective spy
Some people like to tell the entire Internet that they plan to use their drone to spy on or to bother people. These people should seek hobbies that don’t involve stealth.
So today I got a live camera drone , I’ve hit a couple trees and cut my dads hand with the blade, but other then that I’m stoked and gonna spy on people with it 💁🏻— c-rissa (@clarissab10) December 25, 2017
Only gone and got a drone with cam, properly gonna be winding my neighbours up. Well pleased. Get in.— ⚒Paul T⚒ (@lincoln_hammer) December 25, 2017
my mum got me a drone w a camera im screamign cant wait to scare people with it pic.twitter.com/DthnWP62wh— meg (@alphacentxuri) December 25, 2017
People sometimes think it is very funny to fly their drone at their dog or cat. Sometimes it is actually very funny, such as when a drone gets taken out by a ferret named “Biggles.” Sometimes, it just makes me very sad, such as when people tweet about terrorizing their innocent animals with a drone in their hair. Please don’t do that.
My 7 year old lad point blank refused to let me have a go on the drone he unwrapped yesterday. He’s very aware of my track record. My first mini drone was taken out by my ferret, Biggles, who launched himself at it with extreme accuracy. Never did find out where he hid it...— Lawrence Clark (@guzzler79) December 26, 2017
Dad got a drone for Christmas and had already crashed it into the dog, she now has a cracking new hair cut— zoe lovelock (@Zoelovelock) December 25, 2017
It’s been eventful already. The cats been on fire and the wain has been hit in the eye with a flying drone toy 😂— Peej (@pjayedgar) December 25, 2017
my brother flew his drone and all four propellers got caught on my cat's tail and she destroyed the kitchen in fear and we had to hold her down and cut it out of her tail oh my fucking god #merrychristmas— Magnus Telekrex (@telekrex) December 25, 2017
DroneCrashmas is indisputably funny, but it’s a lot less so when the crashes involve blood. People often assume that a flying object with four hard and fast-moving propellers can’t hurt them. This isn’t the case, and the injuries get worse the larger the drone is. The danger goes up if the novice drone pilot is foolish enough to try flying a large drone inside a small space, like, say, a conservatory. Luckily, these seem like fairly minor injuries.
My dad just tried out his phantom drone he got for Christmas in our conservatory and it went sideways into the wall, so we tried to grab it now we have a broken propeller a sliced finger and a sliced leg... great start😂😂— Rebecca Turner (@rebeccaturner12) December 26, 2017
@KTTS947fm my son got a mini drone and tried flying it in the House... he hit grandmas eye and poor gma has a bad black eye now 🤷🏼♀️— Tiffany LaRose (@TiffLLaRose) December 27, 2017
My wife bought me a tiny drone for Xmas and long story short, my nipple is bleeding.— Hello Papa (@HyphenateMe) December 25, 2017
So my dad and brother has had a drone for approx 5 hours and I am already nursing a cut from where they have driven it into my leg and fuck it hurts— Tess // (@kkatemckinnonn) December 25, 2017
(FUNNY) STORY TIME, YALL.— HisMrs♡ (@MrsWifeyLife) December 26, 2017
So my brother & SIL got my husband a freaking DRONE for Christmas. While he was messing with it inside my parents house yesterday, he lost control of it and it flew up to the ceiling at full speed, hit it so hard and then came flying – down towards him
While (most) DroneCrashmas stories are hilarious, I’m collecting them for a serious reason. I want people to become more responsible with their drones.
Drone technology is in a strange transition stage. While they are widely available, our society still isn’t very familiar with how they work or how they ought to be responsibly operated. Most of us know the basics of how to operate a car or a mobile phone, but many more people are unfamiliar with the basic dynamics of how drones function—and few people bother to read the manual. That’s why new drone pilots are so often surprised when their drones slam at top speed into the ceiling or vanish into the ether: They assumed that small drones are less complicated to operate than they actually are.
Perhaps this is because far too many people still see consumer drones as toys. They’re unaware that drones are aircraft and are treated as such by the Federal Aviation Administration, and that there are potential legal penalties for irresponsible drone use. They don’t know that immediately flying their drone more than 400 feet into the sky isn’t just a good way to lose it, it’s also against the FAA’s recreational drone use guidelines. While drone companies and national aviation authorities have launched public awareness campaigns, the hapless pilots of DroneCrashmas just don’t seem to be getting the message about their responsibilities when they fly outdoors.
The confusing legal environment surrounding recreational drones doesn’t help. While the United States, the U.K., France, Australia, and many other nations have introduced rules and regulations pertaining to drones, they remain very much in flux. The guidelines are often complex and difficult to understand even for people who work in the drone industry, much less casual pilots who received a drone for Christmas. Making matters worse, aviation authorities, like the FAA often lack the resources or the mandate to effectively locate and penalize rule-breakers. All of these factors—little understanding of how drones work, limited public awareness, and confusing rules—collide during the holidays.
While we may laugh at errant drone pilots who do nothing more serious than bothering their grandmothers or ruining a holiday meal, irresponsible drone use can lead to more serious problems. While small drones have a good safety record (and may not be as dangerous to manned aircraft as we’d previously feared), they are still flying objects capable of causing harm in the air and on the ground. In 2015, a toddler lost an eye to a drone propeller. A few drone pilots have been cited for crashing their drones into people. One drone pilot in Washington struck a woman in the head, triggering a lawsuit and a state investigation. Near misses are more common than they ought to be.
In California and Arizona, firefighters must now regularly contend with unauthorized drone flights over wildfire areas, which endanger manned firefighting aircraft and shave valuable minutes off response times. Some of these drone pilots have been arrested. In the immediate aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes in Texas and Florida, many “flying rubberneckers” used their drones to shoot YouTube video and take photos of the immediate aftermath. Drones haven’t yet been incorporated into the U.S. National Airspace System, which means manned aircraft like search-and-rescue helicopters have no way of knowing whether drones are nearby in a disaster area unless their pilots communicate with relevant controllers and receive airspace authorization from the FAA. That often doesn’t happen, creating new problems in areas that are already experiencing crises.
Novice drone pilots who crash or lose their new toys may also find themselves in for more legal or financial trouble than they bargained for. Some on Twitter expressed surprise (and displeasure) over the FAA’s newly reinstated requirement that all drones weighing over 0.55 pounds be registered through an online portal. New drone users who fail to register could be fined—and while enforcement action by the FAA against errant drone pilots remains rare, it does happen.
Consider the case of the man who accidentally crashed a drone on the White House lawn in 2015, triggering a process that eventually ended in a $5,500 fine. The blurry boundary between commercial drone use and hobby or recreational drone use has also tripped up drone pilots before, such as this case from Minnesota.
Outside of legal ramifications, irresponsible and jerky drone pilots do no favors for the technology’s already dubious public image. While casual drone pilots may not care if new laws make drone ownership more difficult or impossible, the many people who rely on inexpensive drones for their work definitely do, People who are forced to put up with badly behaved drone pilots in their cul-de-sacs may be more likely to support anti-drone legislation, both at the local and federal level. Both hobby and commercial pilots have access to their technology only at the sufferance of the government and the public: It’s a privilege that can and will be taken away if the bad behavior continues.
One way of culling the herd of doofus drone pilots is (gentle) mockery—and that’s the true meaning of DroneCrashmas to me. My perhaps overoptimistic hope is that people who witness the crying children and pissed-off housecats of DroneCrashmas will laugh and read the damn manual before launching a shiny new drone on its maiden flight.