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Drone app makes scary 3D models of San Francisco in flight

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This is how drones see the world

Drones, those silent and ever hovering eyes in the sky, are now just part of everyday life in the Bay Area. But that doesn’t mean they don’t run into some problems now and then. Literally "run into," in the case of things like hard-to-see overhead wires.

That’s where drone mapping service HiveMapper comes in. As Recode reported last year, the app provides drones operators with three-dimensional maps of hazards in their immediate vicinity (including any nearby legal no-fly zones).

That’s well and good for drones, but does HiveMapper offer anything for the rest of us? As it turns out, yes, although the results are maybe a little on the disquieting side during beta mode. The app’s recently launched gallery page features some drone’s-eye view videos of the Mission and Cathedral Hill. But more than that, it turns those videos into 3D models you can navigate your way around. It’s essentially a Google Map in the air.

Maybe this is what San Francisco looks like through the eyes of drones. That is to say, like an old SimCity 2000 map by way of Mad Max: Fury Road, floating in an impenetrable, shadowy ocean. But it’s still in the beta phase, so maybe they’ll clean up the layer of somewhat dystopian film over everything in a later version.

In the meantime, it is pretty cool to be able to get a bird’s eye view of the city with a bird’s maneuverability built in. Only the two locales are live now, but if more users upload their drone sweeps it may grow into a full, citywide map of San Francisco skyways. Maybe it’s about time someone send a drone out to explore the Farralones? Every little bit counts.