• All hail the selfie drone – a robot camera that hovers in the air, filming and snapping your every move. (E+/Getty)Source: E+/Getty
Comment: Selfie drones are creepy intrusive gadgets that may soon destroy our peace and privacy. Jill Stark explains why.
By
Jill Stark

9 Dec 2016 - 12:35 PM  UPDATED 9 Dec 2016 - 12:41 PM

The selfie stick is dead. All hail the selfie drone – a robot camera that hovers in the air, filming and snapping your every move. 

What fresh hell is this?

My first thought when I heard about the latest technological development was that the end of civilization as we know it is upon us.

It’s not so much the narcissistic nature of the “Dobby” pocket drone – which retails at $599 and promises to enhance your ability to “take satisfying, cute selfies” – that bothers me. I’m hardly in a position to judge, having recently bought a selfie stick in a fit of holiday delirium, to capture a gondola trip with my mother down Venice’s Grand Canal.

Nothing ruins a sunset swim on a peaceful beach quite like the high-pitched screech of a drone as it hovers over you like a giant angry mosquito.

What concerns me is the creeping intrusion of technology and noise into our public spaces.

Nothing ruins a sunset swim on a peaceful beach quite like the high-pitched screech of a drone as it hovers over you like a giant angry mosquito.

I say this from personal experience. The sense of invasion – of privacy and peace –  as this ugly device flew overhead filming my friend and I in our bathers in the ocean was quite unsettling.

And yet these intrusions are something we will all have to contend with as the popularity of drones both recreationally and for commercial use continues to grow.

New relaxed regulations that came into effect on September 29 mean anyone can fly a drone weighing under two kilograms, for fun or for profit, without approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Insurance companies and pizza delivery services are among the industries using drone technology to enhance their business, with the commercial market for drones expected to grow as organisations seek to cut costs.

Nature buffs are also enjoying the freedom they offer, as they give any amateur David Attenborough a dramatic bird’s eye view of animals and sea life in the wild.

This should be a concern, not only for nature lovers who prefer their rural retreats to be places of quiet contemplation, but for those who feel our native wildlife is best left unstartled by flying robots.

Drone regulations state that they should not be flown at night and must be kept at least 30 metres away from people, vehicles or buildings but these rules are practically impossible to police.

Insurance companies and pizza delivery services are among the industries using drone technology to enhance their business, with the commercial market for drones expected to grow as organisations seek to cut costs.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority did threaten to issue a $9,000 fine to an enterprising Melbourne man who last month flew a drone to Bunnings to snatch a snag from a sausage sizzle and deliver it to a friend waiting at a nearby outdoor spa, but they only knew about it because the culprit uploaded the footage to YouTube.

Realistically, there is little we can do in the moment if drone technology is impinging on spaces we once expected to be places of relative calm and reflection.

If the selfie drone takes off (pardon the pun) it will be another case of the march of technology outpacing the law and our ability to adapt to rapid social change.

And it begs the question – who owns our public spaces? Does someone’s right to take selfies from an overhead drone override another person’s right to privacy and peace?

The line between private and public is becoming increasingly blurred in our constantly connected modern world, with many people eschewing social conventions that were once considered basic courtesy and manners.

We see it on public transport or on aeroplanes where some passengers no longer feel the need to use headphones when playing music on their phones or watching a movie on their laptops. Then there are the motorbike riders who roar down residential streets, revving their deafening souped-up engines with little regard for anyone around them.

At a quiet beach retreat earlier this year I watched a fellow traveler at the villa directly opposite FaceTiming a friend on speaker phone at full volume. She seemed oblivious to my irritation at the intrusion.

Perhaps I’m being overly-sensitive. Maybe I simply have to accept that this is the price we pay for all the conveniences and advances technology has brought us.

But I fear that gadgets like the selfie drone are the thin end of the wedge. In a world where there are fewer and fewer places to switch off and find sanctuary, we accept the creep of technology into shared public spaces at our peril.

 

Love this author? Follow Jill Stark on Facebook and Twitter

Drones and robots can help us get valuable metals out of trash
An Aussie scientist has pioneered a micro recycling solution for tackling the global e-waste crisis.
Future delivery drones start learning how to fly on their own
Your online shopping will soon arrive by air - once drones know where they're going