The Year in Drone Videos
A tour of the best unmanned aerial cinema from around the world
Drone photography came into its own this year.
Quadcopters with cameras got better and cheaper, turning more people into drone hobbyists and professional aerial videographers. Drones were used for cityscapes, nature walks, concerts, real-estate listings, disaster surveys, Olympic sports—even self-portraiture, as selfies taken from the air became known as “dronies.”
With so many drone videos out there, picking the best of the year is a difficult task. To make our list, a video had to distinguish itself with a creative location, approach, or circumstance. Some drone videographers just got lucky (or unlucky, as the case may be). Others brought particular skill to an unusual place.
The popularity of drone videos can be partially explained, yes, by their novelty. (And their newfound ubiquity inevitably gave rise to complaints.) But at their best, drones provide a compelling vantage that captivates viewers and points in a new and creative direction for journalism and cinematography.
The following were the best drone videos released in 2014.
An Illicit View of Beijing
Drones aren’t allowed to fly over many parts of Beijing, least of all the Forbidden City. The photographer who took this video, Trey Ratcliff, was detained by policeafter he flew close to government buildings. Fortunately, he was allowed to keep the footage he shot over five days and offer the world this rare perspective on Beijing.
A Rockfall in Northern Italy
A cliff collapsed at the beginning of the year in the small town of Tramin (also known as Termeno) in South Tyrol, Italy, sending boulders and small rocks tumbling through fields—and, in one case, straight through a 300-year-old barn. This drone footage surveyed the surreal damage in an attempt to raise money for relief efforts.
An Abandoned City Near Chernobyl
Pripyat, Ukraine, was evacuated in 1986 after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown. Danny Cooke shot this video while visiting for the CBS TV news program 60 Minutes, which produced a segment about the continuing effects of radiation in the area. What Cooke found was a city frozen in time and left to decay but still displaying its humanity.
Fireworks on the Beach in Florida
“The quad was not damaged,” said Jos Stiglingh, who sent his quadcopter into the middle of an extravagant fireworks display in West Palm Beach, Florida. The resulting footage offers a perspective on a pyrotechnics show that’s usually seen from a much safer distance.Taking to the Streets of Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s Umbrella movement seemed to catch everyone off guard, from its student leaders to the Chinese government. The scope of the protests wasn’t clear at first, but this video, shot by Nero Chan, helped make it clear to the rest of the world. He posted it to Facebook with the status: “feeling hopeful.”
Skimming the Waves on a Thai Island
Philip Bloom took his gear to Koh Yao Noi, Thailand, an island off the coast of Phuket, and shot an enchanting video that’s most notable for how close to the ground the drone hovers.