Defying Gravity

With the ability to fly comes the potential for many great things, and innovators all over the world are developing drones to discover that potential.

Let’s begin by talking about selfies, the technology of which has evolved over the years. Before the age of forward-facing cameras, we saw those awkwardly angled shots that people would upload to the likes of myspace, with their arms obscuring half of the photo. Now with smartphones and augmented reality filters, we have the possibility of taking selfies with immediate editing, enhancing and sharing. Another step of the selfie evolution was brought about by the selfie stick, which still attracts a Marmite reaction – people either love it or hate it.

However, the latest technological craze that will hit the selfie scene this summer is the AirSelfie. While drone technology has been around for some time, aerial photography is really beginning to take off this year, more for personal than professional use. The AirSelfie drone, also riding on this latest hype, offers a new and improved alternative to outstretched arms and selfie sticks, enabling people to better capture their jealousy-inducing snaps for Instagram.

While this might seem like an exciting use of drones to some, other innovators have explored alternative avenues. Direct Line and Saatchi & Saatchi for example, have created a prototype of Fleetlights. When ordered with an app, similar to calling an Uber, these drones will fly to you and walk with you, lighting up your path in the dark. Fleetlights have been designed for the use of pedestrians, cyclists and other people travelling at night in dark places where there is no street lighting, to improve visibility and safety. This could potentially be an important component to increasing safety on the streets, but it also has its dangers since it highlights the person that is alone and vulnerable, making them easier to target. That being said, search and rescue teams would likely be able to make good use of this technology. Fleetlights is still just a prototype (watch the trailer here), but it will be interesting to see how it progresses and how it will be used in order to be most beneficial to citizens.

In addition to selfies and safety, and with the purpose of bringing together technology and the arts, a recent endeavour has resulted in a collaborative performance project that makes drones dance. Rhizomatiks – a Japanese company comprising of scientists and artists who specialise in technological research, architecture and design – have created a number of live performances interwoven with complex technology such as augmented and virtual reality, projection mapping, motion capture, robotics as well as drones. 24 Drones is a piece performed by dancers from ELEVENPLAY and 24 pre-programmed drones. The collective group, both humans and machines, carry out out a carefully choreographed routine together, creating a unique and strangely ethereal performance. You can watch 24 Drones here.

As drones are a new but increasingly integrated part of society, there is still some haziness about the rules and restrictions of using them in public – and this varies from country to country. Nevertheless, it is exciting to see all the innovative ways drones can and will be used.

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