“I'm terrified of heights, but I think there's something really beautiful about birds and soaring, having a bird's-eye view of the world” — Lindy Booth
Drones were once the domain of professionals and well-healed enthusiasts but are now more accessible to hobbyists on a budget. Costs have dropped substantially in recent years, and the technology has advanced exponentially.
As a result, lightweight and inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have proliferated, creating a new dynamic in aerial photography. The commercial applications are many, but the opportunity for documentary observation, dizzying adventure, and pure abstract art is limitless.
Guillaume Jarett, managing director at Dronestaga says, “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.”
Here are twenty-five jaw-dropping images captured by drones.
25 Lobster Farm, Vietnam
The breeding cages at a lobster farm in the coastal province of Phu Yen, Vietnam, create a geometric figure, visible only from above. The rows of connected cages, each one the same size, displays a uniformity and positioning with a purpose.
Like commercial vegetable fields, where crops are planted in rows to facilitate harvest, these lobster cages are built to provide easy access by boat.
24 The Monastery of Mont Saint Michel During a Foggy Morning
The mist makes this sixth century castle, Le Mont-Saint-Michel in France, seem like it's part of a fairy tale. Just off the northwest coast, the castle was one of the most important pilgrimage destinations during the Middle Ages.
Throughout history, the Island proved to unconquerable, successfully rejecting assaults by the Kingdom of England during the Hundred Years’ War.
23 Soccer Field on an Island in the Norwegian Archipelago
It is common knowledge that soccer is the most popular participation sport in the world. In some countries, games are played every day, and fans dedicate every non-working hour to watching their favorite teams.
In the Norwegian Archipelago, the sport is so important an entire island was dedicated to a soccer field.
22 Red Train
While train travel is not inexpensive, it costs less than flying and it involves much less time waiting in lines. Train rides are smooth and turbulence-free, and passengers are free to move around. There is no traffic and the trip by train can be amazingly scenic.
This red train provides its passengers an unforgettable view of winter in the mountains.
21 Hong Kong: One of the World’s Most Densely Populated Cities
Hong Kong ranks as one of the world’s most densely populated cities, and it has more skyscrapers (taller than 500 feet) than any other city in the world.
With over 17,000 people per square mile, it might seem a bit crowned, but it is easy to find a delicious “Dim Sum” restaurant; there are thousands of them. Despite all the concrete and steel, Hong Kong has an irresistible appeal.
20 Fly Like an Eagle
Drones give us a “bird’s eye view” of the world in which we live. They allow us to soar like an eagle and even fly right next to one.
One has to wonder if this bird felt threatened by the strange flying object with no wings that makes a subtle whirring sound while invading its airspace.
19 The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The soft ground in the region of Pisa, Italy makes support for ancient towers problematic. The famous “Leaning Tower of Pisa” is not the only one in the area that tilts. Several other church towers also lean.
A climb to the top of this tower provides the same view of Pisa seen by many others over centuries.
18 The Iconic Fountains of the Bellagio Hotel Las Vegas
Las Vegas has an endless variety of spectacular attractions, and perhaps one of the most dynamic is the fountain at the Bellagio hotel. People line up several deep on the Las Vegas strip for the scheduled shows.
The view from a drone shows just how much valuable real estate the fountain occupies.
17 Overwater Bungalows in Tahiti
The overwater bungalows in the islands of Tahiti provide a glimpse of the tropical fish and stingrays that occupy the crystal-clear waters below.
A glass-covered hole in the center of each accommodation allows occupants to experience the aquatic beauty without even getting wet, although no one can resist a swim in the warm, tropical Pacific Ocean.
16 Drone Violates Airspace Over Football Game
Who said the “nosebleed seats” give you the best perspective on a sporting event? The view from a drone is even better. At a football game, you can watch the plays develop and spot the missed coverages.
However, Federal airspace regulations now restrict drone flights over California sports stadiums and the distribution of flyers or other objects from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) is prohibited.
15 Fishermen Close to the Net in Fujian Province China
The photo of fishermen from a drone provides a unique aerial perspective that creates a startling composition from the netting, poles, and water.
Fishing is much more than a means of making a living, it is an art form as well. Just ask the fisherman and he may tell you, “It is more artistic when the fish are biting, or in this case, swimming into the nets.”
14 Camel Trail on a Sand Dune
Two of nature’s elements, sand, and wind, can create artistic forms that rival any artwork created by human hands. Add some camels to disturb the untouched dunes, and an undulating, perhaps boring, texture transforms into an intriguing comment on life in the desert.
Recorded from above by a drone, the photo captures the disparity between a nomad existence and the bustling noise and confusion of life in the city.
13 Northwest’s Endangered Resident Killer Whales
Boats are required to stay more than 200 yards from the Northwest’s endangered resident killer whales. Restrictions on drones are less clear. Pacific Whale Watch Association Executive Director Michael Harris said, "We have seen hobby drones being flown out there…egregiously close to protected whales."
This overhead image of Southern Resident killer whales was captured by a drone from above 90 feet under NMFS research permit and FAA flight authorization.
12 Hungry Hungry Hippos
It’s not the tabletop game made for 2–4 players, produced by Hasbro in 1978, but a herd of hippos in Tanzania. The composition demonstrates the creative potential of working with drones.
Stricter regulations on their use should consider not only the disruption of nature but also the opportunity to record it from a viewpoint not available in the past.
11 Ocean Fishing Net
The potential use of drones is unlimited including remote sensing, aerial surveillance, commercial and motion picture filmmaking, oil, gas, and mineral exploration, disaster relief, real estate and construction, and many others. However, the artistic application is boundless.
Viewing the world from above, while previously available from airplanes or other flying objects, can be done silently from a drone with minimal disruption of the objects being observed.
10 The Baleen Whale Call
Researchers have discovered a strange sound below the surface of the world's deepest waters, above the Mariana Trench. It may be a new baleen whale call.
Sharon Nieukirk, a senior faculty research assistant in marine bioacoustics at Oregon State University says “The low-frequency moaning part is typical of baleen whales, and it’s that kind of twangy sound that makes it really unique.”
9 Lava Flow at the Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
From a safe distance, a drone shoots footage of the lava flow at the Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii. Although the eruptions are a constant threat to the landscape, animals, and humans living nearby, the drone footage displays the lava’s path and can help predict its direction.
While not immune to the intense heat, the unmanned aircraft can fly much closer to molten liquid than a manned aircraft.
8 Surfing Australia with the Sharks
This surfer riding the nose of a longboard in Australia seems oblivious to what lurks below the surface. No doubt he passed the danger without event, but the mere sight of shark so large and so close would be enough to terrify even the most experienced surfer.
Perhaps this shark had already eaten, so surfer-for-lunch was not in the plan.
7 Flying a Drone over Moving Traffic is Illegal
FAA regulations for flying an unmanned aircraft over streets with moving traffic a very clear.
It is prohibited due to the risk that vehicle drivers won’t be aware of a drone’s presence and will not be prepared to respond safely if the drone battery runs out or another failure causes it to fall from the sky.
6 The Space Needle and Mount Rainier
For years the view from the Space Needle was touted as the best in Seattle area. But there is an even better vista from a drone at a slightly higher elevation that takes in the Space Needle and Mount Rainier in the distance.
A minor rotation of the camera yields a view of the Microsoft Campus and Pikes Place market near the waterfront. The only thing missing is the aroma of a Starbucks coffee brewing somewhere down below.
5 Sunrise Over Pai in Thailand
Thailand is an exotic mix of idyllic tropical islands, extraordinary annual festivals, glistening temples, and genuinely hospitable people. It is one of the most popular and rewarding destinations in the world for vacation travelers.
The country is vivid and colorful with distinctly contrasting feelings from the hustle bustle of Bangkok to the serenity of Pai in the northern Mae Hong Son Province.
4 Actress Vivien Leigh’s Tickerage Mill Garden
Generations of families have maintained England's great country estates as repositories of history, culture, and heritage, with magnificent grounds, parks, and lakes.
Actress Vivien Leigh once owned this treasure at Tickerage Mill near Uckfield in East Sussex, England. She purchased the estate in 1961 for 20,000 pounds and lived there after her traumatic divorce from Laurence Olivier.
3 Lombard St. in San Francisco
Lombard Street is famous for the one-way block on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, consisting of eight sharp hairpin turns that make it one of the most crooked streets in the world.
Too steep for most people to walk up, and too many sharp turns for most to drive, it is best seen from a drone.
2 Wealth Inequality
The perspective of almost everything changes when looked at from a different angle. Often the viewer benefits by gaining a more complete understanding of a concept or design.
While the residents of each zone shown here may seldom crossover into the other, a view from a drone illuminates the obvious wealth inequality between the adjacent areas.
1 South Beach Miami
One of the most famous stretches of sand in the world, South Beach Miami is host to hundreds of high-rise condominiums.
Known for its retro hotels in the Art Deco Historic District, it boasts a variety of restaurants, many with a Latin flavor, and a vivid nightlife scene for the avid partygoer.
Sources: boredpanda.com, nbcnews.com, nwnewsnetwork.org, theverge.com, smithsonianmag.com