Every night, I see a drone tracing the same rectangular route in the dark, over and over. The rectangle runs roughly from Southeast 122nd to 116th and from Southeast Division to Powell. My neighbors have seen it, too. Is this police surveillance or something else? —Drone Patrol Patroller
Rumors that the Portland Police Bureau has a drone program are likely inspired by a drone seen hovering over last summer's Black Lives Matter protests—folks assumed it must be cops creepily stalking the crowd.
To be clear: PPB doesn't use drones to spy on people. That protest drone actually belonged to a private citizen sympathetic to BLM; the cops were creepily stalking the crowd from a fixed-wing aircraft much higher up. Don't you feel stupid now for being so paranoid?
Anyway, if you think your zombie robot drone is spooky, imagine how people felt in early 2020 when multiple drones—6 feet across and flying in formations of three or more—started appearing in the night sky over eastern Colorado.
Sightings tailed off after a few weeks (thank God). A few weeks after that there was a global pandemic and interest in the drones faded. Still, to this day no one—not local police, not the FAA, not now-former U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who promised to "closely monitor the situation"—has ever been able to figure out where they came from or what they were doing.
As with your drone, Patroller, most of the more benign explanations for these flights—land surveying, mapmaking, aerial photography—don't add up at night. (It's also illegal to fly drones at night, though I suppose when you've come halfway across the galaxy in search of Infinity Stones you can't be bothered with the niceties.)
Now, the more astute among you may have noticed that this column is almost over and I, like now-former U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, still haven't actually answered the question.
But that's only because I'm leaving it to you, dear readers! There are probably dozens of you out there—dozens! Somebody has to know somebody who knows something. The correct/most convincing answer will win eternal glory and a Dr. Know T-shirt.
In the meantime, don't antagonize the drone. If it does start to approach you, put on a nice outfit, lie on the ground, and drape a lead mask over your eyes. Works every time!
Questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.