Drones Are the New Best Thing for Selfies

Bye-bye selfie stick!

  • The Pixy drone snaps photos and videos for Snapchat.
  • Maximum flight time is 20 seconds.
  • Small drones are not subject to drone regulations.
Three teens using the Snap Pixy drone to take a selfie.

Snap Inc.

Snap, the Snapchat people, have made a selfie drone that may be as annoying as a needy wasp. 

Drones. Good: Rescues, awesome production-value-adding aerial shots in TV and movies. Bad: remote warfare, creepy peeping-Tom action, annoying everyone who isn’t the owner. But Snap’s $250 Pixy has some serious advantages, annoyance-wise. First, it’s tiny and cute. And second, it is only designed for ultra-short flights, up to just 20 seconds at a pop. 

"The drone's flight is mostly meant for automated maneuvers, which means users will not have to worry about controlling the drone. This also means that the Snapchat drone will not be able to fly long distances, as it is mostly meant for short selfie-grabbing flights," drone specialist and on-call firefighter James Leslie told Lifewire via email.

"The short flight time of the Snapchat drone will not allow users to fly long distances, which means that users will not be able to capture photos or videos of large areas. The drone would not be of much use for those looking for traditional aerial photography."

Short Films

The Pixy drone weighs three and a half ounces (101 grams), shoots 12-megapixel photos and 2.7K video, comes with a pair of rechargeable batteries (and charger), and fits into your palm. Each charge gives 5-8 short flights, depending on how long they last, and all your pics and vids are stored on internal 16GB flash memory. 

The point of the Pixy is to launch it and snap photos and videos of yourself and your friends from interesting angles. The short flight time makes it almost annoyance-free for bystanders because really, who could hate this little yellow aircraft when it has to land after a few moments?

The Pixy works with the Snap app and connects via Bluetooth. The idea is that you launch it into one of its preset flight patterns (there are six), and it performs the automated flight before landing. Obviously, you shouldn’t fly it out over the edge of a building, or off a cliff, or over water, because then it will attempt to 'land,' and you’ll never see it again. Not in one piece anyway. 

But equally obviously, those are the exact scenarios where a selfie drone is attractive. If you’re up on top of a tall building, who wouldn’t want to fly their camera over the edge for an awesome reverse shot?

According to DP Review’s Kara Murphy, the video quality isn’t all that, but is fine for "smartphone consumption." In fact, the entire design of the Pixy seems to be based around the compromises needed to get the size and weight down to a place where it’s a practical pocket-sized toy, and in those terms, it’s a killer drone. (No, not that kind of killer drone.) 

"For better or worse, this isn't a drone so much as a hands-free selfie stick [for] the type of people who post to Snap," said photographer LegacyGT on a DP Review forum thread. “Image quality is terrible, but people have been taking selfies with the crappy front camera since the iPhone 4 in 2010. And like phone cameras, this camera will improve as well.”

The Snap Pixy above a hand against a blue sky.

Snap Inc.

Drone Moan

Yet despite its small size, the Pixy is still a drone, and with that come problems and responsibilities. 

"An issue with the Pixy drone is that it lacks collision avoidance. The drone mostly relies on automated flight patterns such as orbiting around the user. However, the lack of collision avoidance could pose a risk to the drone and others. Especially if the drone is used in a crowded area," says Leslie.

What about drone laws? That’s another advantage of the Pixy’s size. Drones under 250 grams aren’t subject to drone regulations, although, says Leslie, "It would be best for users to be familiar with the laws and regulations in order to ensure a safe flight."

But really, the biggest hazard these things are likely to pose is to the pocket, and the environment, when they get lost in the bushes or washed down the river before the first charge has even run down.

Correction 5/12: Attribution updated in paragraph three to reflect the correct first name.

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