The Ice Cream Drone

Remember the ice cream van? That unexpected treat trundling around the neighbourhood on a summer afternoon; nursery rhyme melodies twinkling hypnotically; salivating kids in feral pursuit; the friendly man in a lab-coat known as Mr Whippy.

For younger readers, this might seem like a sting from a mobile paedophile ring; Gary Glitter cutting his teeth – a blueprint of transportation buggery. But it wasn’t. It was bliss – a pure memory, undiluted by the cynicism and negative innuendo that’s now rife in every thought process.

Sightings of the ice cream van have dried up. Retired to lonesome beach promenades, anchored to sticky coin arcades and idle rocking horses – all sad victims of modernity.

Like most of yesteryear’s cultural touch points, these characterful merchants were priced out by monolithic supermarkets. The same supermarkets that have encroached into every neighbourhood, heartlessly swallowing independent retailers – hungry digestive systems producing the same replica dropping with every bowel movement, homogenised corporate cow-pats that discolour our towns.

The romance of the ice cream van’s surprise visit – the unscheduled randomness and innocence chime – are now distant memories. Usurped and undercut by Tescos cost-efficient fridges – the deep, cold, life support machines that keep food at the precise temperature to be deemed legally fresh, yet tastelessly morbid. A fitting microcosm of our shopping experience.

But, as technology takes, it occasionally gives back. Almost apologetic for denying us these nostalgic throwbacks, the ice cream van has been reinvented.

Ice Cream Drones are about to occupy the skies. That rickety old van has grown propellers and a sophisticated GPS device. The low flying airspace is being carved up like 19th century Africa – the new colonists (the technology developers) are getting busy and creative. The real estate above our heads is primo, and will soon teem with activity.

Complete with the vintage backing track (Spotify override optional), these unmanned drones will patrol residential streets and parks on warm days. Being privy to everyone’s online shopping profiles within 100-metre perimeter, they appear with telepathic accuracy. If you’ve Googled a product stocked by the drone, then expect a visit. And the rotating logo of a Magnum on your bedroom wall – beamed via the drones onboard laser projector – might seem like direct marketing gone too far, but is in fact completely legal under the new ambient advertising laws.

Nothing’s out-of-bounds in the hungry world of marketing. Anything can be re-purposed as a billboard these days, and the Ice Cream Drone takes no prisoners. The garage door, street signs, car windscreens, your friend’s forehead – they’ll all soon be appropriated as an advertising platform. And there’ll be no recourse. If you don’t like being illuminated as a mobile ticker tape, then take solace in the fact you don’t live in a part of the world where drones disperse a very different type of message.