Dronestagram: See the world through the eyes of a bird

Story highlights

  • Social site for drone photography has over 30,000 users
  • Largest number of Dronestagrammers from U.S.

'The Silk Road: Past, Present, Future' travels east to west along this ancient trade route, exploring how traditional culture, arts, and trade have developed in the 21st century. This month we explore the United Arab Emirates.

(CNN)How many of us have gazed up at a bird and wondered what the world looks like through their beady eyes?

Dronestagram -- a photo and video-sharing site for drones -- now gives us a rare bird's-eye view of some of the most remote landscapes on the globe.
    As the name suggests, this is the drone community's answer to Instagram, with over 30,000 users uploading aerial images of everything from ancient mausoleums in northern China to the dizzying moment a diver launches himself from a cliff in Mexico.
    With the United Arab Emirates currently inviting submissions for its annual Drones for Good Award -- in which $1 million is given to a design that will benefit humankind -- expect to see some ambitious prototypes quite literally taking off in the next few years.
    We spoke to Dronestagram founder and French entrepreneur, Eric Dupin, about the future of drone photography -- and the enduring allure of aerial shots.
    CNN: Why are people so fascinated by images of Earth from above?
    Eric Dupin: "Maybe for the same reasons for which man has always dreamed of flying. Just look at people in an airplane, stuck on the window seat looking down. With satellite images, and apps like Google Earth, we are now used to seeing Earth from above. But drone photos bring a new way of seeing the world, at low altitude, near landscapes and buildings, like a bird would do."
    What makes a great drone photo?
    "It's a picture that you immediately identify as a drone photo -- it is taken at a low altitude, near the target of the picture, and you must see on the picture that it is impossible it has been taken with a device other than a drone. Part of the appeal is that drones can capture images of places that are impossible to reach with another flying device."
    What's been your most popular picture?
    "The famous eagle from Indonesia, which has had 126,000 views."
    This spectacular image of an eagle from above was taken at Barat National Park, on the Indonesian island of Bali.
    What do you think the public's perception of drones is?
    "Some people are scared about these flying machines because they don't know them very well and they just repeat what they hear from other people or the media. But most people I know and meet are fascinated by drones -- particularly if they see a demo of what we can do in terms of photography."
    Tell us a breakthrough in drone photography that excites you
    "I think there's a market for indoor drone imagery that has not really been addressed. Another big milestone for me would be when drones are able to easily stream live sessions on the internet."
    What are the biggest challenges for drone photographers?
    "They have to invent a new photographic language, describing unique images that are impossible to make with anything else than a drone."
    Is drone photography problematic for people's privacy?
    "It may be -- as may be photography with a classic DSLR with a powerful zoom."
    What's your favorite shot?
    "We have so much amazing shots on Dronestagram that it is too difficult to make a choice -- but my preferences go to wonderful cityscapes, like the ones of Milan, Barcelona, New York, Sydney or San Francisco, just to mention a few of them."
    The sun rises over Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge in this image from Dronestagrammer iflywithmylittleeye.
    What country has the largest number of Dronestagrammers?
    "USA is still the first, followed closely by France and the UK. Brazil and Italy are also in the top five."
    What's your top tip for any drone photographer?
    "Fly on sunny days, use a good image stabilizer (hardware or software) and respect local regulations."
    What place would you most like to see captured by a drone?
    "We miss good shots from Africa. I'd like to see more landscapes and wildlife, and even cityscapes in Africa from above."
    How will we use drones in the future?
    "I hope we will use them for good -- to show the beauty of the world, help find lost people, and deliver goods and medicine to people who are in hard-to-reach areas. "