College of art drones take high altitude selfies

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The craze for “selfies” could take off to a whole new level in the skies above the Capital, with researchers planning to launch drones and rockets to take snaps of the city.

A six-strong team based at the Edinburgh College of Art aims to create a mobile app that will let residents check how the city looks from the sky as easily as they check their own reflection, and share the image with their friends like a photographic self-portrait.

Hadi Mehrpouya with the 'city selfie' drone. Picture: Comp

Hadi Mehrpouya with the 'city selfie' drone. Picture: Comp

The CitySelfie project would involve cameras launched skywards using remote-controlled drones, balloons, and even small rockets to create a panoramic view of the skyline.

And it has already produced a soaring film of the city, giving residents a bird’s-eye-view of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

CitySelfie’s designers have lofty ambitions to help make city living more fun.

“We were thinking about the concept of a selfie, and how it could be applied to a city,” said project leader Hadi Mehrpouya, an Iranian-born technology expert with a background in computer games.

“I’ve always been interested in the concept of making cities ‘playable’, making cities more friendly, and create more interaction between the city and its citizens,” said Mr Mehrpouya.

“This project really adds new dimensions to the city, and makes you think about the different ways you can interact with it.”

Testing has already begun in the skies above Edinburgh, with two drone sorties producing breathtaking footage.

One test flight over the Meadows was a little too successful, with Mr Mehrpouya fearing his little aircraft might hit a passing plane.

“We started to get a bit nervous, because it goes so high up that you can’t see it anymore,” he said.

CitySelfie’s drones are controlled using live footage beamed to a smartphone, and carry a 36-camera pod that takes synchronised images and stitches them together automatically.

The team intends to approach city chiefs and local businesses once the live feed is set up to ask if it can be beamed into televisions and giant screens across Edinburgh.

The project has been shortlisted for the Playable City Award, run by Bristol arts centre Watershed.

If successful, Mr Mehrpouya and his colleagues will spend three months at Watershed’s base in Bristol developing CitySelfie prototype.

The winner will be announced on June 9.

“We’re hoping to run this project in Edinburgh, and in other cities around the world,” said Mr Mehrpouya.

Clare Reddington, executive producer of the Playable City Award, said: “We are delighted to have received so many exciting and inspiring proposals from around the world.

“We are really looking forward to seeing how the public respond to each of these ideas in the coming weeks.”