There Were Real-Life Drones Flying Overhead at Coachella

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Photo by Timothy Norris
By Andrea Domanick Remember an April Fool's post earlier this month, about drones at Coachella? Well, it turns out it was prophetic. Those hovering, propeller-powered crafts have indeed arrived at Coachella.

They could be spotted this year floating surreptitiously above the crowds, during performances by MGMT, Outkast and others. So what's the deal?

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Photo by Timothy Norris
Don't worry, these drones weren't searching for your drugs. It turns out that festival organizers teamed up with a couple of aerial robotics firms for assistance with their YouTube live stream footage.

But that's not all: German tech firm Festo unleashed their Smart Bird drone upon the crowds during weekend two as part of a festival art installation -- it was outfitted to look like a seagull, flapping its "wings" as it flew.

Most of the drones, however, have a more practical purpose. The buglike camera bots you may have spotted looming near stage fronts are the work of LA-based aerial cinematography specialists Drone Dudes. They helped provide aerial coverage of sets at the main stage and inside the Sahara tent, giving a bird's eye view of performances from folks like Kid Cudi and Carnage -- as well as crowd shots.

Coachella bans attendees from bringing in their own drones, but some got them in anyway, posting footage taken by GoPro drones on social media sites.

In any case, you're not alone if you find the drones a bit creepy. We realize that the festival is being photographed constantly by live human beings, but it's hard to shake Big Brother vibes when you know you're under the gaze of a hovering automaton.

With security at the festival tighter than ever -- including hidden surveillance systems monitoring chips in attendees' wristbands -- it's not hard to imagine drones being employed for security purposes. And when people are dying it's hard to argue against that. But there has to be a way to balance safety and privacy, and unleashing drones upon the masses seems like a ham-fisted way to go about it.

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