The week of February 1, 2015

The 30 coolest drone videos on YouTube

By Mike Fenn

Drones have completely changed the way we look at the world around us. Even iconic monuments have taken on new significance, captured in angles that simply weren’t possible a decade ago.

We scoured YouTube for 30 of the most amazing and unique drone videos out there. What we discovered was a treasure trove of everything from breathtaking landscapes to unexpected incidents captured from birds’ eye view.

1) New York City

See the five boroughs of America’s largest city as you have never before seen them. This video takes you on a tour of not only New York’s recognizable areas but also into some of the lesser-known tourist spots, including the Arthur Kill “ship graveyard” in Staten Island and the old World’s Fair location in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.

2) Traffic in New Jersey

Needless to say, New York City’s massive workforce has to come from somewhere. Those who opt out of the metro area’s mass transit options commute to work the old-fashioned way—and spend copious amounts of gas, money, and frustration to do so. Check out this massive traffic jam—a daily occurrence—on eastbound Interstate 80 near its merge with Route 15 in Wharton, N.J. This is the perfect advertisement for trains and buses.

3) The Hollywood sign

Unless you are an experienced hiker, chances are that all of your views of Los Angeles’ famous Hollywood sign have been from afar. That all changes in this video, which takes you for an up-close look at the sign’s massive letters and the beautiful mountainous landscape around it.

4) Niagara Falls

For years and years, one of the biggest and most well-known waterfalls in the world could only be seen from official parks, the Maid of the Mist boat, and barrels. This video gives us a fresh look at the majesty that separates the United States and Canada.

5) The Grand Canyon

Eons of erosion by the Colorado River have transformed a large segment of Arizona into the breathtaking Grand Canyon, a must-hit for hiking and nature enthusiasts. There’s nothing quite like seeing this timeless natural beauty in real life, but this video comes close.

6) Hawaii

Cheaper than a round trip ticket: Here’s Hawaii’s chief island, Oahu, and sights like the Diamond Head natural formation and its pristine beaches.

7) Tokyo

Japan’s largest city and one of the world’s most busiest places, Tokyo has never been much to look at from street level. Taking a peek at the sprawling metropolis from the sky—complete with up-close shots of the landmark Tokyo Tower—brings an entirely new perspective to the area.

8) Chernobyl

In 2014, British photographer Danny Cooke, while filming a segment for CBS News, led the world in one of the most jaw-dropping excursions ever. Take a tour through the spooky remains of the the abandoned Russian city of Pripyat, which was destroyed during the Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown in 1986.

9) The Pyramids of Giza

Tourists from around the world constantly flock to the northernmost tip of the Sahara Desert to view the mysterious wonder of the Pyramids and Great Sphinx of Egypt. They’ll never get to see them from this angle.

10) The Serengeti

The Serengeti region of Tanzania and Kenya in east Africa is home to all sorts of wildlife.

11) Stonehenge

Since its construction during the age of the ancient Druids, we have only been able to enjoy the massive rocks of Stonehenge in England from ground level. Not anymore.

12) Icelandic Volcanoes

While you wouldn’t expect Iceland, of all places, to house active volcanoes spewing burning lava, its Bardarbunga region would beg to differ. Get up close without worrying about third-degree burns.

13) Svalbard Archipelago

On the extreme opposite end of the temperature spectrum, join photographer Peter Cox as he makes his way through the melting glaciers and crystal blue waters of the Arctic Ocean on his trip through the Svalbard Archipelago in northern Norway.

14) Warwick Castle

The Warwick Castle in Warwickshire, England was first used by William the Conqueror around the year 1068.

15) Ocean life
Captain Dave Anderson, who operates Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in San Clemente, Calif., captured some amazing footage of ocean life off the coasts of southern California and Maui. We won’t spoil it for you.

16) Cruise ship
While this video includes footage of a sprawling beach and shore community, the star of it is easily the Carnival Cruise Lines ship that the drone followed as it left port.

17) A Mount Everest expedition
Few people have reached the summit of Mount Everest in Tibet, and to date, no drones have. That didn’t stop one from capturing shots of base camp, as well as an expedition trying its luck against the breathtaking backdrop of the world’s tallest mountain.

18) Fireworks
This video of a fireworks display from West palm Beach, Fla., went viral last year. It’s worth revisiting.

19) The Top Thrill Dragster

For some people, the top of the roller coaster hill is the highest point they will reach when traveling to an amusement park. This video allows you to go even higher—and look straight down on the main hill of what was briefly the tallest roller coaster in the world: the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

20) Mexico City International Airport

One of the many problems that drone hobbyists face is flying them in restricted airspace. Needless to say, such airspace is certainly prominent over airports, where not only will your expensive contraption risk certain annihilation by constant air traffic but could also put others’ lives in danger. Fortunately, this video of Mexico City International Airport was filmed with special permission and shows us all exactly what we are missing.

21) 2014 Hong Kong Protests

As more and more people got their hands on drones, they quickly discovered that they could use them to capture perfect angles of important news stories and developments. A classic example o is seen in this footage of the massive protests in Hong Kong during the fall of 2014, following unpopular changes in the country’s electoral system by the People’s Republic of China.

22) Bridge demolition

In 2014, the deteriorating Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio, which carries Interstate 90 traffic over the Cuyahoga River, was demolished. This video captures one of the many implosions that were necessary to wipe the route off the map.

23) This dirt bike crash

U.K.-based drone users “Evan” and “Dylan” were using their device to check out some off-road trails deep in the woods. What they probably didn’t expect to capture on camera was a head-on crash between two dirt bike riders as they bounced along the rocky ridge.

24) Friday night lights

Usually, aerial views of sporting events are only seen briefly when sports telecasts toss to or return from commercial breaks—and that’s only if a blimp is readily available! While a trusty Goodyear airship wasn’t in the budget for one Texas high school, a far cheaper drone was. Check out the field and packed stands of Terrell Memorial Stadium, home of the Terrell High School Tigers in Terrell, Texas. Apparently, this drone preview of the season opener was a good luck charm: The Tigers went on to beat their opponent, the Kaufman Lions, by a score of 15-6.

25) Star Wars: Episode VII

In a galaxy far, far away—OK, Greenham Common, England—one drone user snagged footage of the set of Star Wars: Episode VII last year.

26) Concert turns ugly

Not everyone respects the amazing abilities—and prices—of drones. The punk band Trash Talk lobbed a few cocktails at it, effectively grounding it for good.

27) Christmas lights

You don’t need to go to Rockefeller Center to see an impressive Christmas display. Jeff Maxey flew his drone over his suburban subdevelopment—and captured the impressive light display put on by the entire neighborhood.

28) Kangaroo vs. drone

Guess who won.

29) Sunken treasure!

When one drone user decided to fly his device over a rock quarry, he discovered something more than jagged cliffs and sparkling water. Apparently, when the quarry was being constructed, the resulting flood of water was too quick for crews to rescue certain pieces of construction equipment; as a result, everything from a crane to a dump truck sits abandoned and submerged in the otherwise beautiful water.

30) A desperate Drone rescue

When YouTube user redphive decided to take his drone for a spin over the shores of Green Lake in British Columbia, he was apparently monitoring the wrong battery indicator. While the camera still had plenty of life in it, the drone itself had run out of power and was gliding toward a watery and pricey demise. Fortunately, redphive rushed into the water and caught it just in the nick of time—and the entire rescue was recorded.

Photo via questpack/YouTube