Drones really do divide opinions around the world – there are many people who regard them as essential and beneficial tools in many areas including search and rescue missions and explorations. But there are many others who consider them an annoyance and an invasion of our privacy.
But whatever your views, there’s one thing most of us will agree on – some footage, shot accidentally or otherwise, captured by drone technology is truly shocking! Whether feats of human endurance, crimes captured as they happen or fierce acts of Mother Nature, if they’re shot from above, they make some truly astonishing footage.
So here’s some of the most unexpected footage shot by drones from around the world. Which one makes the top of your list?
1. Apex predators
Who would win a fight between a shark and a crocodile? You’re about to find out! In incredible drone footage captured by surfer Duncan Brotchie off the coast of Australia, this was a true battle of these apex predators, both usually at the top of their game in the food chain stakes (neither have any natural predators).
The footage, shot in waters surrounding the Wessel Islands in Australia’s Northern Territory, shows who started it – the tiger shark begins trailing the crocodile for around two minutes. Imagine a deadly scene, with two hungry beasts circling, that could quite happily snack on anything that happened to be in the water. If it hadn’t been for this surfer’s curiosity whilst monitoring his drone’s camera view, he (and anyone else nearby) could’ve been none the wiser until things got out of hand. As it was, he was only 10 metres from them in the same waters.
After being aggressively circled for a couple of minutes, the crocodile decided that enough was enough and… crawled onto a nearby rock, out of harm’s way! Perhaps passivist crocodiles exist after all. Or maybe this one was a sensible who knew when it was out of its depth? Either way, in answer to the original question – neither, because the croc bottled it!
2. An airplane slides off the runway
When the world hears news reports of a plane crash, we collectively hold our breath, waiting for a miracle and to hear of no injuries, let alone deaths. Sadly though this isn’t usually the case. But not always, as a plane accident in Turkey in 2018 demonstrated.
Amazingly, a full aeroplane with 162 passengers and six crew members on board slid off the runway at Trabzon Airport, slipped down an embankment and only narrowly missed plunging into the Black Sea. And there were zero injuries or fatalities! All passengers and crew were safely evacuated and drone footage shows the plane left in limbo as it appears to be within meters of nosediving into the water.
It was unclear exactly what caused the incident but two factors were thought to be at play – cold, icy weather conditions and the fact that the airport, and runway, are built on land that’s been reclaimed from the sea. Reports from passengers on the plane at the time revealed that everyone on board had to wait for 20 minutes before help arrived, after the plane produced a loud noise and started shaking shortly after the plane landed from Ankara. We’re not sure we’d ever want to get on a plane again. Would you?
3. The worst traffic jam ever
Yep, we’re calling it. Never has there been a worst traffic jam. So if you’re still reeling from the last time you were caught in city traffic, think yourself lucky you weren’t caught in this one.
It happened on the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway in China, which has already earned itself the moniker of one of the world’s busiest thoroughfares. So imagine the horror of the drivers caught in this, with perhaps the perfect storm of conditions…
First up, it was the end of a national holiday, Golden Week, with millions of people heading home. (Yep, that’s millions.) Then there was fog. Then this 50 lane junction was forced down into 20 lanes due to the addition of a new official checkpoint. It’s unbelievable that a 50 lane anything even exists, let alone to reduce it to less than half on such a busy day. It’s unclear just how many hours people were left stranded for, or who was responsible for such a headache. But after that, would you ever travel by car again?
4. Off-limits shipwrecks in New York
There’s an area of Staten Island in New York, where “any and all photography” is banned. But that hasn’t stopped curious drone operators flying their drones over the Arthur Kill ship graveyard to capture footage of this extraordinary area that you’d least expect in a cosmopolitan city.
First built in the 1930s by the Wittes Marine Equipment company, Arthur Kill was an area where shipwrecks were brought to be stripped of their valuable parts in order to be used elsewhere. (Kill is the Dutch word for creek, and this area was popularised by Dutch settlers, hence the creepy name.)
But owner John J Witte was a bit of an eccentric and refused to allow many boats to be stripped. So that’s why this area of marshy, dirty waters is now home to hundreds of decomposing ships and vessels. Over 400 of them now lay in their final resting place in the waters of Staten Island. Until his death in 1980, John Witte was a fierce defender of his property, hence why the area became so mysterious to outsiders, desperate to get a look. Now, we can all view drone footage of the sorry looking ships, some of which have now actually been stripped of their valuable materials in order to be reused in other industries. And it sure does make for a curious sight!
5. A strange hole in a lake
When I was younger, my mum would always tell me that if I pulled the plug out from my bath when I was still in it, I’d get sucked down the drain with all my soapy bath water. Four decades on, I still have to get out of the bath before pulling the plug.
But it turns out, this isn’t as crazy as it sounds, especially if you live in Northern California. The Morning Glory Spillway, known locally as the Glory Hole, is a humungous drain hole that empties water from the Monticello Dam into Lake Berryessa when water levels get too high to prevent flooding – at an astonishing rate of 1,300 cubic metres per second!
This huge drain hole measures 22 metres in diameter and was built between 1953 and 1957. At the time, it was expected that it would need to be opened around once every 50 years. But with the effects of climate change ever present, it’s currently being opened twice a year due to record rainfall levels. Drone footage of the drain being opened is astonishing and I can only imagine my mum saying I told you so…
6. Tornado aftermath
An extreme weather event, from ice storms to heatwaves are always devastating events, and a tornado is no exception. Now, using drones, the full extent of the devastation Mother Nature can wreak can be seen.
Footage taken by drone operator David Waltermyer after a surge of tornadoes tore through the south east of the US in April 2020 shows the shocking and saddening results. The footage is taken in Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia and Chattanooga in neighbouring Tennessee and shows that nature knows no borders.
Around 51 million people were in the path of these particular tornadoes, with many of them at home due to Coronavirus restrictions. 1.3 million people lost their electricity supply and providing shelter was tricky due to measures meant to stop the spread of the virus. Whole streets are reduced to nothing but rubble, and perhaps one of the most iconic of figures from a modern day town, the Golden Arches of a McDonalds sign, are shown to be destroyed. A choosy weather system, the footage shows how the tornado destroyed buildings that were standing next to buildings that remain completely untouched as the path of the weather system can be tracked.
7. The giant sinkhole of Guatemala City
Perhaps one of the most shocking events can that can occur as a result of natural (or manmade) shifts in the ground is a sink hole. Even more shocking is the fact that they can occur anywhere, at any time. Capture them from above on drone footage and the full extent of the damage caused can be seen.
In 2010, a giant sinkhole opened up in Guatemala City, taking with it an entire road junction, a three storey building and a house. The sinkhole was thought to be caused by the rains brought by tropical storm Agatha, sadly also bringing with her hundreds of dead and injured locals. Residents have since put the blame and upset squarely at the feet of the local authorities saying that a poorly maintained sewage system was the cause of so much devastation after it couldn’t cope with the rainwaters.
As a result of tropical storm Agatha, landslides were also reported in nearby cities and neighbouring El Salvador and Honduras. Hopefully such footage can help highlight the plight of people living in often poor areas, in regions of the world on the path of hurricanes and tropical storms.
8. A mysterious crop circle
OK, so all crop circles are mysterious, we hear you. But this one, spotted in 2017, still has the owner of the land, stumped. Farmer Shelley Klindt lives on her farm near Hannington in Wiltshire told the BBC that she woke to the enormous crop circle, measuring 60m (that’s 200ft in old money) on her land one summer’s morning.
Formed in a field of mature wheat within the boundaries of her farm, she was shocked to say the least. Forming crop circles on someone else’s land is actually illegal but even though Farmer Shelley describes the gigantic circular formation as annoying, she did allow curious people onto her land to view it.
At first, she tried to keep it under her hat, but drone footage of the circle went viral and people flocked to her fields. In order to prevent more damage to her land, she had to provide a cherry picker to allow her expectant public a good view. Alas, a few days later, the crop circle disappeared as quickly as it arrived but under far less mysterious circumstances – it was wheat harvest time and the combine harvesters were out in full force.
9. A crocodile doesn’t like paparazzi
In this list of unexpected drone footage, we’ve had a few incidences where human beings have become annoyed at being unexpectedly filmed by drones and have tried (some successfully, others not so) to attack and destroy the drone. But in this footage, captured in the remote outback of Western Australia, a drone gets attacked… by a crocodile! The animal was clearly either very hungry, or very annoyed.
At an unbelievable 5 metres long and a metre wide, the croc lays still in the reeds at the side of the water, hiding out of sight whilst planning its attack. And then without warning, it leaps out of the water and tries to strike the drone, possibly because it thought it might make a tasty treat. And the whole thing was captured by local fisherman and drone operator, Sean Scott.
Thankfully, Sean was quick thinking, and pulled the drone up out of the reaches of this giant crocodile who he estimates was only an inch from his pricey pride and joy. Otherwise, it would’ve been a disappointing treat for the hungry croc, and an expensive case of mistaken identity for the fisherman.
10. A random plane in the forest
Of all the things you’d expect to find in a forest (trees, earth, leaves and probably quite a few insects) you probably wouldn’t have an aeroplane high up on your list. But that doesn’t mean that aircrafts can’t be found in the middle of a forest, as this air footage shows.
But don’t worry, this isn’t some mysterious disappearance in the Bermuda Triangle, or the wreckage of a devastating air disaster. Far from it, for this is actually someone’s home! Buried deep in a forest in Oregon in the US, local man Bruce Campbell bought the Boeing 727 for $100,000, put it in his garden, and decided he loved it so much, he wanted to actually live in it. The wings now form his decking, the cockpit is his little reading nook and the teeny bathrooms are, well, they’re his bathrooms. Surrounded by lush vegetation, this is a truly unique home and sure does make for an interesting view if you happen to by flying over this ‘house’.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how on earth to get a plane in your back garden without a runway or landing strip – Bruce had to remove the wings and tail and pay for the plane to be temporarily stored whilst everyone scratched their heads – at an extra cost of $95,000…
11. A spooky clown in a cornfield
Scared of clowns? You might well be after watching this drone footage captured above a corn field in Huntsville, Alabama in 2016. It shows seemingly innocent footage of a corn field, corn blowing in the breeze and nature doing its thing.
But then things take a sinister turn when the drone pilot spots a figure, very much not camouflaged against the corn. Dressed in a bright orange top, luminous yellow braces and a curly wig stands a curious looking clown, leaning forwards to get a better look at the drone. Spooked, the clown then runs away through the rows of corn towards woodland, regularly turning back as if scared, eventually escaping the drone. However, are things as sinister as they seem?
Coulrophobes among us (that’s people that have an intense fear of clowns if you were unsure) will remember 2016 for the year of the Great Clown Scare. This was a time when people dressed as clowns and hung around spookily, terrifying people all across the US and Canada. So online sceptics doubt this corn field clown footage is as innocent as the YouTube poster claims. They suspect it was all a set up. We’ll leave it up to you to decide…
12. A very lucky surfer
Here’s a great example of drone technology being put to good use – as a warning system for swimmers who might be at risk of a shark attack. And Australian Matt Wilkinson sure should be thankful that this particular drone was nearby…
Swimming in the idyllic waters off Ballina in New South Wales, Matt had no idea that he was inches from a 1.5 metre great white shark. In fact, he had no idea of the danger he was in, until after he got out of the water and saw the remarkable drone footage.
It’s thought that the shark, that was circling the unsuspecting swimmer, was put off this tasty treat by either the overhead noise of a drone or the swimmers leg rope from his board touching its snout.
Either way, the recorded warning from the overhead drone urged all swimmers, surfers and bathers to get out of the water due to the presence of this enormous sea creature. Drone operator Beau Monks from Surf Life Saving NSW truly was a hero that day, as he sounded the warning after spotting the shark circling its prey. His quick thinking saved the life of another human being, and it wouldn’t have been possible without drone technology.
Do you know what slackliners are? We didn’t until we saw this incredible drone footage of three slackliners balanced 650 feet above the breathtaking landscape of Rio de Janeiro for four hours.
Slackliners are daredevils, who walk tightropes, high above the ground, for fun. Usually, the rope is placed between trees, which is considerably closer to the ground. But Ighor Pereira, Mitsu Kawaguchi and Marcio Cardoso decided that wasn’t high enough, and walked a tightrope 200 metres above the ground.
Their journey then took four hours to get from one end to the other, even staying sky high for sunset, but allowing for some stunning drone footage. Good balance and agility are definitely the name of the game here. Also known as high line athletes, the trio took in the views of Rodrigo de Freitas Lake and the area of Morro do Cantalgo. The sunset is absolutely amazing, making the whole city appear as if shrouded in a burning orange. As stunning as it looks, though, we think we’d prefer to look at the pictures of the event from the comfort of our own laptops, rather than actually being up that high, balanced on nothing more than a wire. How about you?
14. A crazy accident in Texas
Sometimes, drone footage can be amusing and light hearted. Other times it can be used for good in search and rescue missions. But other times, it highlights the perils of being a human being.
Footage taken from a drone shows the aftermath of an awful road traffic accident on Interstate 10 in Texas. Spanning both sides of the central reservation, the accident involves around 100 cars and trucks and reports at the time suggested that hundreds were injured and at least two people lost their lives. The images show a tangled mess of vehicles, after heavy fog significantly reduced visibility in the area in November 2012. It also coincided with Thanksgiving, one of the busiest days for traffic in America.
The fog was so thick that emergency responders arriving at the scene didn’t at first realise the extent of the accident. As is usually the case with such a tragedy, uninjured passengers and passers-by helped to pull those trapped inside their vehicles. So we hope some solace can be felt in the midst of such an awful event to be captured on drone footage.
15. A monk sunbathing on a wind farm
Most of us have seen a wind farm, probably from a far. However, usually out at sea or dotted along rolling hills in the countryside, this means that not many of us have seen a wind turbine up close to appreciate quite how enormous they are.
Except that is, Brother Joseph Byron, a Benedictine monk who works at a private Rhode Island school. Brother Byron has been captured in drone footage, soaking up the sun whilst relaxing at the top of one of these 175 foot constructions. (In case you were wondering, because we were, a Benedictine monk is a monk that’s part of a monastic religious order of the Catholic church. They wear black cloaks called habits and take the Benedictine Vow, a promise of stability and obedience.)
Drone pilot Kevin Miller from California who was on holiday on Rhode Island was flying his drone out of curiosity. He was astounded to view live footage of a human relaxing at such dizzying heights. Brother Byron was at first happy to see the drone, giving it a little wave, but when it zoomed in for a second look, he says he found it a little annoying. On coming back to earth, he said it was a regular trip that he took, and that it isn’t scary at all, and is in fact very peaceful.
16. A private tanning session
Picture the scene. It’s sunny, you’re in the middle of the city, you have an afternoon off and you fancy catching a few rays. What do you do? In the absence of a local park or your own garden and the nearest beach is hours away, you need to be a little inventive.
Which is exactly what one genius sunseeker did, when she took herself up onto the roof of a large building in the middle of an urban landscape. What’s more, this sunseeker decided that she didn’t want the inconvenience of tan lines and so decided to sunbathe topless. It must’ve felt like the ultimate in sunbathing solace, up there on her towel, sun cream not far away. But imagine her surprise when she heard an unfamiliar whir of something above her.
Was it a bird, was it a plane? No, it was the unfamiliar whir of a drone, flying above her, filming her relaxing tanning session. Drone footage of the aftermath of her realising that her privacy had been so rudely interrupted shows her running along the rooftop, towel now covering her top half, with a broom in her hand, trying to knock the invasive drone out of the sky. We don’t know what happened next, but we truly hope the spying drone pilot was found and reprimanded.
17. A trespass reprimanded
Drones are meant to capture exciting footage as it happens, and it doesn’t get more ‘exciting’ than the drone actually being shot at. As drone technology moves on at lightning speed, they’re being used more and more for good, as rescue and explorative equipment that’s saving lives. But that doesn’t stop some people hating on these pilot operated devices, as footage shot in the UK on a large private estate shows.
The unknown pilot was flying a drone over private land, which is still a grey area in the eyes of the law. Its footage captures the attention of what is assumed to be the land owner, with his eyes locked onto the drone. He also happens to have a fully loaded rifle on his person.
The land owner then cocks said rifle, aims at the drone and shoots. In one expertly aimed bullet, the large drone is taken down, presumably never to be seen again. But that didn’t stop the footage being recorded, as it literally dropped out of the sky and lands on the ground. Perhaps that’s a lesson for any would be drone operators – check who own the land you might be flying across beforehand if you want to return home with your equipment intact.
18. A stalker underwater
If you’re lucky enough to be living, working or holidaying in the sun hot spot that is Miami in Florida, then you’ll probably want to spend at least some of your time swimming or paddling in the crystal clear waters.
But what if you weren’t alone, and your swimming companion, far from being a friend or fellow ocean lover, was actually an enormous six foot hammerhead shark? That’s exactly what happened to one swimmer in the winter of 2020. Attacks by hammerhead sharks are rare, but with at least 15 reports of unprovoked but thankfully non-fatal hammerhead shark attacks around the world, you probably don’t want to be hanging around one for long.
This particular incident was captured by Miami based drone and ocean wildlife enthusiast, Jason McIntosh. He was flying his drone over the water, about 25 metres from the shore, when he spotted the swimmer… and the shark. And he had no way of alerting the swimmer to the danger he was in. But luckily, the shark seemingly got bored, and it swam away, as the male swimmer, who was swimming on his back (and incidentally, giving the drone a thumbs up sign) blissfully went about his swim, totally unaware. What a lucky escape!