While aerial drones are capable of capturing some absolutely gorgeous scenes from high above, they're also good at crashing into the ground. User error and forces of nature are the biggest enemies of this burgeoning industry, and they are serious concerns despite record sales and an ever-growing consumer base. The following videos, while entertaining, should be taken as a warning to anyone interested in owning a drone. As you'll see below, even professional pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, can run into trouble. Always follow the FAA's recommended safety tips before hitting the air — or suffer the consequences.
There’s a lot of on-the-ground setup for this one, with the owner proudly explaining the engineering behind his professional Octo-Drone. Sadly, once in the air, things go horribly wrong, with the drone careening wildly back towards the operators and colliding with a vehicle. In the YouTube comments, there are all sorts of theories as to why this happened, but it’s a relief that nobody was hurt.
2. Flight above the clouds ends in (fortunate) disaster
And now for a cautionary tale involving a DJI F550 Hexacopter and its owner’s decision to fly it to 3,300 feet above a densely populated area. Stefan Extam of Switzerland managed to come away from this scary flight with nothing but a broken drone, an amazingly lucky outcome considering the flight zone. He posted the video as a warning to others, admitting that it was a “very dangerous situation” that could have ended much worse. He no longer performs high-altitude flights or flights over populated areas.
3. Pinnacle Peak takes down drone in glorious 4K
In what’s one of the most beautiful crashes on this list, production company Every Angle Films had the unfortunate luck of both losing contact with their drone and having it hit the only rock formation for miles around. According to the operator, once the drone lost signal, it attempted to “return home” and chose a flight path directly into the massive monolith. Somehow, the GoPro camera managed to survive, catching a beautiful sunset after its dramatic fall.
4. Drone leaves a special (and painful) mark on wedding couple
After watching this video, you might want to think twice about paying for that “special drone option” offered by your wedding photographer. The groom in this video learned that the hard way after getting smacked in the face from a direct strike by a DJI Phantom. Thankfully, the end result turned out beautiful, complete with souvenir facial scar.
5. Drone flees from owners in Amazon rain forest escape
Professional aerial photography company CineChopper was filming scenes for an Animal Planet show when their $15,000 drone turned unresponsive and started flying away. What ensues is some rather cool footage above the canopy, recovered thanks to a search party (in the middle of the jungle, no less) that managed to find the drone. Lucky for CineChopper, only the camera’s mount was damaged in the crash.
6. National Geographic drone destroyed in China’s “Grand Canyon”
While using a drone to score some incredible shots of China’s Enshi Canyon (and the stunning, nearly 500 foot-tall stone pillar within), something goes terribly wrong and the drone crashes far below.
While it’s incredible that the NatGeo team managed to locate the wreckage, even more impressive is the fact that they repaired it — and scored 20 more flights from the drone while on assignment!
7. Birds take on drone, fly away victorious
As one drone owner in New Zealand discovered, birds don’t take kindly to flying devices infringing on their territory. Attacks like this are actually quote common, with videos online of ravens and even geese declaring war on aerial drones.
8. Drone saved at last moment by devoted owner
After all these disasters, we’ll end with a last-minute save, courtesy of one drone owner who threw himself into a freezing cold pond to save his dying eye-in-the-sky. While it’s still early, the video (with more than 3 million views) is already being called “the best drone video” of 2015.
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