So now, in addition to banning every device with a GPS, we'll need to ban everything with a camera and a computer that could navigate better than a human. ;-)
On the topic of drones, I've wondered whether they could be of use in a training exercise helping people learn to read contours. The participant would use colored markers to delineate a constant height on the ground (i.e., a contour), and then the organizer would use a drone to let the participant see that from above. Repeat with different terrain shapes. I'm coming to the conclusion that a lot of our eager but newer orienteers struggle with contours when going from city park events to forest events, at least up here.
Thought of using a drone to video-record the mass start of a rogaine, seeing folks dart off to all different directions, but then was a bit concerned of potential injury if a drone crashed down. An acquaintance of mine that spent months in building drones and experimenting his software told me the flying debris of the broken propellers are like high-speed projectiles, and he did his tests sheltered from behind a concrete wall.
The participant would use colored markers to delineate a constant height on the ground Augmented reality glasses. Google glass failed, but whatever comes next might have a better chance.(I think Microsoft is playing with some google glass alternative) Software should be able to overlay the contours on the terrain to be seen through the glasses.
Software should be able to overlay the contours on the terrain to be seen through the [virtual reality] glasses.
This too could be useful, but I wondered if, as a learning exercise, having the participant try to form a contour might help them learn. Sometimes just seeing something isn't as much a learning experience as also doing something, and seeing the relationship between the two (what you did and what you see). Maybe. I dunno. I think that playing with the idea of how to develop understanding of contours in advanced beginners and intermediates may be useful, as I sense that it's a biggish need. Learning by doing orienteering is one way, of course, but I suspect that coming at it other ways (like the various ways that people have suggested above, and/or others, tech-based or low tech) might be a useful augment, and modify the frustration/enjoyment ratio for the many orienteers at this level.
"... help them learn" contour recognition might be a limited goal.
I've often thought that the skill of forming a mental terrain picture from contours is a peculiar dimension of intelligence, which many people otherwise able and interested in navigation, might not possess. During my coaching years I met many people who just didn't "get it", and Jim you obviously have too.
With paper maps we certainly haven't found a better way, but if or when we move to providing the map on digital devices, we should be able to do better.
We have this 3D model hill made from wood that we use at rogaines to teach contours. It has a spur, a gully (or re-entrant for you northerners), a saddle and many of the usual features you'll find on a standard map and it has the contours indented around each feature that then matches up with a paper version of the model. Much easier to learn than some silly drone flying about but then people are more into tech these days although I expect they'd be more interested in having a go with the drone than paying attention to what it teaches them.
You can visualize curves quite well if you add a contour overlay to Google Earth!
The only real problem is that it doesn't work for orienteering class maps, since the 3D model used by GE is way too coarse, but with something like 20 m contours on a mountain hiking map it works well.
How long until drones follow WOC competitors? Maybe it needs the right terrain. It could be an interesting way to see small route choices or navigational decisions, if the terrain is open enough. Falling drones aside.
There are legal issues involved in using drones in many places. For example, the East Bay Regional Park District doesn't allow them anywhere, including Morgan Territory, where the US Champs will be. If you're coming next week, leave your drone at home.