Martha Stewart Loves Her Drone, Just as Louis XIV Would Have Loved His

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 30 2014 2:02 PM

Martha Stewart Loves Her Drone, Just as Louis XIV Would Have Loved His

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Martha Stewart living ... with drones.

Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time on Wednesday titled “Why I Love My Drone.” The only appropriate response is to pen an answering column about Why We Love Martha Stewart’s Column About Why She Loves Her Drone. First, there is a MadLibbian delight to the juxtaposition of the proper noun Martha Stewart with the military technology drone. (At The New Yorker, Henry Alford savored the pairing in a riff that Stewart says “was really funny but missed the point about why I love my drone.”) The new Time piece—just the latest of Stewart’s paeans to her quadricopter—advances the story of romance while supplying that much-needed layer of accuracy. Mostly, Stewart adores her drone because it is a “useful tool,” and she is all about useful tools. The drone takes beautiful, unique aerial photographs and videos of Stewart’s surroundings:

The view I was “seeing” on my iPad with the help of the drone would have otherwise been impossible without the use of a private plane, helicopter, or balloon. With any of those vehicles, I would have needed a telephoto lens, and all of them would have made an unacceptable commotion on the beach. What’s more, I would not have been in the photos!
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The images are so arresting and beguiling that even one of her farm workers now has a drone.

One of my farm workers used his drone, a DJI Phantom flying camera, to capture amazing images of my 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York. Suddenly we could see with astonishing clarity the layout of the open fields, the horse paddocks, the chicken coops, the greenhouses, the hay barn, the cutting gardens and henhouses, the clematis pergola, and the long allée of boxwood. The photos were so good I posted them to my blog on Marthastewart.com. The response was phenomenal!

As Stewart points out, this interest in sweeping bird’s-eye vantages predates the invention of drones. It may be related to our humanity. The Great Wall of China, the Nazca Lines in Peru, hot air balloons, the telescoping towers of the late 1800s—all of these technological marvels, Stewart writes, came into being in part because we had no drones to give man dominion over his limits. What could their builders have accomplished with remote-operated flying robots?

“It is hard to imagine André Le Nôtre laying out the exquisite landscape designs for Vaux-le-Vicomte, and later the magnificent Château de Versailles” without a drone, Stewart marvels. Yet, she continues, Henri IV was able to redraw Paris without a drone, and Capability Brown transfigured the landscape of England to align with his “axis of vision” without a drone. She does not mention it, but Stonehenge too may have risen without drones, the Rubicon was likely crossed without the aid of drones, and drones were almost certainly not involved in the discovery of penicillin.

All in all, it is a powerful argument for drones.

Drones can underscore a harmonious social order. Stewart says that the shots of her farm revealed “a very good landscape design—thanks to the surveyors and landscapers who worked with me on the overall vision, much as le Notre worked with Louis XIV.”

Drones can also highlight similarities between one’s vegetable garden, seen from above, and one’s “Peter Rabbit marzipan-embellished Easter cake, which was designed without the help of a drone.” What an enlightened monarch like Louis XIV could have achieved in the field of leporine pastry ornamentation if he’d only had a drone is too staggering to contemplate.   

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Katy Waldman is Slate’s words correspondent.