A Boy and His Drone

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 Camera-equipped flying robots have quickly become a ­staple of the ­adventure world, filming first ascents and nailing poachers. But that’s just the beginning. As Eric Hansen found out during a cross-country test drive, affordable consumer drones will revolutionize how we experience the outdoors.

Leaf peepers. European tourists. Motorheads from a ­nearby car show. On a Friday in September, maybe 100 visitors milled around Clingmans Dome, a popular lookout atop a high ridge in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Some made the push to the ovoid, Jetsons-esque observation deck. The rest, exhausted by the half-mile approach from the parking lot, wiped their brows while standing on the flagstone patio below.

“Think it’s OK if I fly this thing?” I asked a woman sitting nearby.

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