If you asked me a year ago which famous persons are advocates of drones, homemaking maven Martha Stewart would not have topped that list. But after receiving a camera-outfitted drone for her birthday last year, she became enamored of it while flying it around a New England beach and observing the vantages from her iPad. Pronouncing herself "hooked," she continued using the drone to capture subsequent parties, nature hikes and outings.
Earlier this year, a member of Stewart's security team purchased a similar drone, and was given permission to learn to fly the thing over Stewart's expansive Bedford, New York farm property. Stewart became so enchanted with the subsequent photos that she posted an entry on her blog entitled "Amazing Aerial Photos of My Farm."
With captions like the following...
This beautiful aerial shot of my home, which I call the Winter house (center), includes the flower room, carport and studio in the one long structure to the left, the Summer house to the far right, one of the horse paddocks and my beautiful peony garden in full bloom below.
...it's easy to see why media outlets, perhaps unfairly, began to skewer her. Even before the blog entry was released, Vanity Fair caught wind of her new kick and allowed her to explain her drone attraction before giving her a gentle ribbing:
[As Stewart explains,] "You can control the altitude, you can control the speed, you can control where it's going. It's easy to use, actually. You can really control it, it's gentle. It's lightweight, too; it's very beautiful."
Have the neighbors called the authorities, reporting a U.F.O.? "No. I don't have any neighbors," she said, laughing.
The latter statement, of course, is in reference to the fact that yeah, a 153-acre farm doesn't subject you to a lot of Joneses peering over your fence.
Last week humorist Henry Alford satirized Stewart's drone obsession in The New Yorker, writing a faux op-ed piece where he, writing as Stewart, praises robots in an I'm-rich-and-out-of-touch way. An unoffended Stewart pronounced the piece funny, and responded yesterday in Time with a lengthy clarification of why she loves drones:
By assuming unusual vantage points, the drone allowed me to "see" so much more of my surroundings than usual. 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.
...It is hard to imagine Andre Le Notre laying out the exquisite landscape designs for Vaux-le-Vicomte, and later the magnificent Chateau de Versailles, with no high hill to stand on, no helicopter to fly in, and no drone to show him the complexities of the terrain. Yet he did, and with extreme precision, accuracy, and high style.
...In England, Capability Brown somehow had the innate vision and perspicacity to reconfigure thousands of acres into country estates fit for royalty. He and Sir Humphry Repton invented an entirely new style of landscape design that had little to do with the grand chÃ¢teaux of France. It became all about the "axis of vision"—relaxed, looming views of the distance that, without an aerial view, required the utmost in fertile imagination.
...The shots of my farm were breathtaking and showed not only 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—they also showed me what more I can do in the future, and revealed unexpected beauty.
With anti-rich sentiment high these days, Stewart is likely to continue drawing ire or derision for her new passion. But she loves drones for the same reason many of us who've seen drone-shot footage do, which is that they provide unusual and striking vistas that we otherwise cannot see. The difference is that she's got millions of dollars to spend on landscape architecture for her collection of estates, and that's no reason to hate on her hobby.
ABD: Always Be Droning