Here in Evanston, Illinois, it's cicada season again. (Cicada trivia: These insects, a suborder of Auchenorrhyncha, spend most of their lives as underground nymphs, emerging only after 13 or 17 years.) It's a "heavy" cicada season here this year; their nightly song easily drowns out the neighborhood street traffic.
If you don't enjoy the incessant, undulating sound coming from a few dozen insects overhead, you're definitely not going to like the forthcoming dawn of The Drone Age.
In the near future, the airspace above your house, above your quiet residential street, will be dotted with whirling and buzzing mechanical dragonflies.
According to BZ Media, producer of commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) show InterDrone, about 160 exhibitors will show their wares when the event opens on September 7 at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. InterDrone will have sessions on design, regulation, and even "Drone Video/Photo/Cinema." However, there's nothing on the agenda about "noise abatement."
Some of your are probably thinking, "Come on, there's already plenty of noise in urban and suburban environments, from barking dogs to air conditioners to Taylor Swift on tight rotation. What's one more thing? Besides, the Subway Drone will bring me my tuna sub quickly!"
But sound, more so than sight, taps into our primal instincts, and can push us over the edge.
Look, nobody gets into a fist fight over some guy's ugly beach towel--the one with hideous day-glow colors and a primitive portrait of Taylor Swift. But turn on a boom box playing Taylor Swift on tight rotation, and you've got annoyance, anger, rage, and possibly a fight.
From the research I've done on the Internet about drone noise (there isn't much), it appears these copters generate between 50 and 100 decibels, depending on their hovering height. One guy who measured the sound of several copters found an output of 53dB at 100ft and 80dB at 10ft.
For comparison, a diesel truck moving at 40 mph that is 50 ft away outputs 84dB. More worrisome, 80dB, which is twice as loud as 70dB, can result in hearing damage after 8 hours of exposure. (http://www.industrialnoisecontrol.com/comparative-noise-examples.htm)
And that's just from one sound source. Now imagine dozens of hellish metal locusts swooping out of the sky all day and night. Moreover, if drones are going to carry packages (sandwiches, Taylor Swift-branded t-shirts, etc.) to our doorsteps, the drones will need to be substantially bigger than the UAVs you've seen to date. Bigger machines means bigger motors and blades, which means louder drones.
Unfortunately, I fear it's too late to stop drones from becoming part of our audio landscape. We can only hope people don't try and muffle their buzz by cranking up the Taylor Swift. That's a world I don't want to live in.