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Selfies Take to the Skies: Meet the Dronie


Imagine standing on a verdant hillside on a calm, windless afternoon, your thumb on the control lever of what is basically a remote-controlled helicopter with a video camera attached to it. The UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle, swoops in and hovers in front of you as you smile charmingly at it. You zoom that baby backward as fast as you can and then push up on the joystick to make it rise.

Congratulations. You’ve just taken your first dronie.

There’s no rest for the trendy, and right this minute there are people who are abandoning selfies in favor of dronies, which are short videos taken by people who like to combine the self-indulgent pastime of photographing themselves with the capabilities of expensive flying toys.

Of course, the emergence of any new trend can be both good and bad:

Pro: Since the scenery around the drone operator is usually an even more important part of the video than the person photographing himself, we can all relax our duckfaces now. Thank god.

Con: We’re still basically taking selfies. What the heck is wrong with us? Just turn the camera around, for god’s sake.

If you have to make a habit of taking pictures of yourself, a considerable amount of practice and the selection of the appropriate surroundings can help make a dronie incredibly beautiful.

The picture at the top of this story is from a great example of a well-shot dronie by Photojojo’s Amit Gupta, featuring New York Times technology columnist Nick Bilton, that’s making the rounds online. Watch it on Vimeo.

And here’s a daring one where the drone owner was brave enough to fly his UAV out over water:

There are a few reasons why this trend hasn’t grown to selfie proportions just yet, though:

1. Drones are expensive.
Most serious dronie videographers want a stable UAV that’s easy to control. While there are basic units that come with a video camera attached, the perfectionists among us will cherry-pick custom drones, cameras, and gimbals. That can set an eager trendsetter back more than a thousand bucks.

Photojojo is going to start renting drones in May to those who might like to try out the dronie trend without investing too much money. It even has a brief tutorial for getting the most out of your dronie.

2. Drones are scary.
These are not the so-called privacy-invading government drones that people worry about, but some of them aren’t exactly friendly looking:


3. Drones can be hard to steer.
When Bilton joined Mr. Gupta atop the Bernal Heights hill in San Francisco last week, he quickly found out that flying a drone isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of practice, and even then things don’t always go well.

As a sign from the universe that dronies are now a “thing,” Vimeo has started a small dronie channel where you can post your creations. There are also dronies on YouTube. Have time to kill before church? Take a dronie. Want to commemorate that road trip with your buddies? Take a dronie.

I think we need to go further with this, though. We need themed dronies. Are you a male who is into “My Little Pony”? Take a brony dronie. Got a bunch of like-minded friends who are all into flying UAVs? Get them all together and take a crony dronie.

But if you’re going to be part of this trend, be sincere. The last thing you want to be is a dronie phony.

Is there something weirdly popular on the Internet that you’d like explained? Write to Deb Amlen at buzzologyYT@yahoo.com and let her know. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@debamlen).