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Omdahl: Homeland Committee looks into drone business

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“We need a new town law,” Chief Warning Officer Garvey Erfald announced as the other 13 electors jockeyed for the best folding chairs in the community hall for the semi-annual policy summit of the town’s Homeland Security Committee.

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“OK,” bellowed Chairperson Ork Dorken, as he rapped his Coke bottle to call the meeting to order. It was brief but enough to get their attention.

“What you mean is a town ordinance,” Ork informed Garvey. “Legislatures pass laws; towns pass ordinances. What’s your idea?”

“Them drone things are OK as long as they are blasting terrorists in Arabia, but now they’re talking about using them to drop packages from the sky, and it seems to me that we need to get ahead of the curve here with an ordinance to limit the use of our airspace.”

“Gosh!” exclaimed Old Sievert. “I didn’t think the airspace belonged to towns. Those crop sprayers have been using it free for years.”

“Wait a minute!” Madeleine Morgan barked. “Just who is dropping stuff from the sky with drones?”

“Ole Krokodjet told me at the Lone Tree Bar, Grill & Bait Shop that Amazon was going to deliver packages by drone.”

“Who’s Amazon?” queried Holger Danske. The only Amazon he knew was in South America.

“That’s a company that sells online,” explained Little Jimmy, the only town resident with a computer. “They figure that they’ll be able to deliver stuff in an hour with drones.”

“Well, my chickens are skittish, and they’ll panic if those things start cruisin’ around their heads,” declared Einar Torvald.

“Before we pass any town laws against drone mail, I want to know if they’ll deliver my Montgomery Ward order for bib overalls,” Einar Stamstead demanded. “I’ve been waiting two months for that order.”

“Montgomery Ward went broke 10 years ago,” Josh Dvorchak explained. “Where’d you get the catalogue?”

“Well, I salvaged a 1996 edition from the outhouse. It didn’t matter how old the catalogue was, because their bib overalls haven’t change for 35 years,” Einar replied.

“That’s probably why they went broke,” Josh concluded.

“The question is whether we have the authority to regulate the use of our airspace,” Garvey wondered.

“Little Jimmy has a lot of college,” Madeleine noted. “Maybe he could tell us.”

Little Jimmy’s latest course was an online study of oil fracking with a college operating out of Tioga.

“I’m not sure we want to get into control of airspace,” Jimmy responded. “County Crash & Burn Flying Club would be against it for sure. We should buy a few drones ourselves and start a drone rental company. Farmers would rent to find runaway cows; hunters could herd ducks; town people could find lost dogs; women could track husbands. There’s no limit to their use.”

“That sounds real progressive,” agreed Orville Jordan, the retired railroad agent who stayed after the trains left. “Where do we get drones? At Walmart?”

That brought a snicker from Old Sievert, who was still looking for the spark on his ’49 Ford.

“No, but Amazon has at least 50 drones anywhere from $30 to $2,000,” answered Jimmy authoritatively. “We could get a whole fleet for a thousand dollars. The real question is: does this town want to fight the future or be part of it?”

“Wow!” exclaimed Holger Danske, who pioneered the first 8N Ford tractor in the county back in 1947. “Let’s do it and have a committee develop a business plan for the next meeting.”

That was it. With the problem postponed, the electors dashed for the door.

Omdahl is former North Dakota lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email him at ndmatters@q.com.

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