Not so long ago, if you wanted a bird’s-eye view of a real-world location, you’d have to grow wings and fly – or just get a photo from a professional. Now, though, practically anyone can get their hands on a commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – more commonly known as a drone – and see places from new perspectives for themselves. But while many folks have used these devices to film glorious landscapes and stunning vistas, others have taken things in a decidedly more disturbing direction.
Some intrepid pilots have used the technology to explore abandoned urban areas that would otherwise be off-limits. Others have used drone cameras for more noble causes – documenting an aquarium full of abandoned animals, for example. But the common link between all of this drone footage is just how downright chilling it is. Let’s take a look at some of the most unnerving videos out there – showing everything from a creepy cornfield clown to a hauntingly deserted city.
30. Shark feeding frenzy
While nature can be beautiful, it may also turn dark and dangerous. Just ask the passengers aboard a cruise ship to Western Australia’s Dirk Hartog Island in 2016. Yes, the tourists got a little more than they bargained for when they ventured out into the fittingly named Shark Bay.
Fortunately, none of the people on the ship were harmed. Instead, they witnessed the ferocity of nature first hand as dozens of tiger sharks swarmed around a floating whale carcass. And as the predators began to feast, the company Eco Abrolhos Cruises launched a drone to capture the awesome sight. That crystal-clear water running red is chilling to see.
29. Cornfield clown
Scarecrows may keep the birds away, but they really aren’t that terrifying to humans. Farmers who want to keep troublesome trespassers away from their land, then, have to look for alternate solutions. Well, that’s one potential explanation for what this drone operator stumbled across in a cornfield.
The YouTuber who uploaded the video – Golden Hour – was apparently trying to shoot footage for an Instagram video he was putting together. In doing so, though, he found something seriously sinister hiding out among the crops. This was no stuffed scarecrow, but – bizarrely – a person dressed as a clown. And to make the whole scene even stranger, the creepy character is seen immediately fleeing the scene upon spotting the drone.
28. Eerily empty streets of Wuhan
In December 2019 a highly infectious new coronavirus first came to light in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Then, as COVID-19 began to be passed from person to person, the government had no choice but to place the area under quarantine. And in February 2020 CTV aired eerie footage of a drone flying through the empty streets of this once-bustling metropolis.
The odd car or motorcyclist show that there are a few signs of life in Wuhan, but the city appears mostly abandoned. Shops and restaurants are lifeless, the airport is deserted and hardly any pedestrians can be seen walking around. The virus has traveled worldwide since it was first identified, with nearly a million people having died from COVID-19 at the time of writing, according to Worldometer.com.
If you want to see the legendary Bigfoot, you’re best off traveling to Ohio. Since the 18th century, there have been plenty of rumors that the enormous hairy beast resides in the state, and more than 36 alleged sightings have been reported over the past few decades. And thanks to a local drone operator, one of these run-ins was apparently captured on video.
In the supposedly unedited clip uploaded to YouTube by Nv Tv, the drone takes flight through the trees in Ohio’s Salt Fork State Park. And while at first nothing seems particularly out of the ordinary, an unidentifiable figure can be spotted lurking in frame as the camera sweeps through the foliage. Whether it really is Bigfoot, though, is impossible to tell.
26. Caught napping
Between work, relationships, family, money and chores, daily life can often be overwhelming. And at one time or another, you’ve likely dreamed about getting away from it all for a while. But, unfortunately, taking a vacation isn’t always an option. And for one man, neither was escaping to the top of a wind turbine.
Apparently, there’s really nowhere to hide when drones are in the vicinity. So it was, then, that someone managed to capture incredible images of a man taking a nap atop a wind turbine – in footage later uploaded to YouTube by Inside Edition. And while the guy presumably just wanted a few hours to get some peace and quiet, he sadly didn’t account for modern technology.
25. The black-eyed child of Cannock Chase
In Staffordshire, England, there’s a forest that’s purported to be one of the country’s most haunted destinations. That’s partly down to multiple alleged apparitions of the ghostly “black-eyed children” – an urban legend that first took hold in the U.S. in 1996. And nearly 20 years later, drone operators filming in the English heathlands of Cannock Chase claimed to have captured one of these supernatural beings on camera.
The footage – filmed by YouTube user Furious Otter – opens with a first-person view over the forest. Then it pans down to ground level, and on the edge of the thicket we can see what appears to be a young woman dressed in white. And, unsurprisingly, the creepy video has since racked up over 1.6 million views on the video-sharing platform. Several paranormal investigators have also contacted the drone operators and informed them of the spooky black-eyed children.
24. Tianjin explosions
In August 2015 a container of chemicals spontaneously combusted at a storage facility in the Port of Tianjin in China. Tragically, the chain of explosions that followed would ultimately claim the lives of 173 people. Then, in the aftermath of the disaster, a drone was sent up above the area. And the footage that the device captured paints a horrific picture.
It’s not hard to imagine the place once thriving, but the camera only sees the devastating effects of the chemical explosions. The disturbing images taken by the drone and published by New China TV show burned-out cars and husks of buildings littering the landscape. The firefighters filmed battling the flames, meanwhile, are a poignant reminder that more than 100 emergency personnel lost their lives in the blaze.
23. China’s bicycle graveyards
Bike-sharing became a huge hit in China in 2017, but too many companies jumped on the trend too quickly. Ultimately, then, supply vastly outstripped demand and millions of discarded two-wheelers began to pile up – forcing local authorities to impound them in enormous “bicycle graveyards.” And a year on, director Wu Guoyong sent a drone up to film the consequences of unregulated growth.
Guoyong explained to media outlets that his aim was to “ask social questions with a camera” – and his haunting footage certainly does that. Those millions of unwanted, rusting bicycles are a pressing reminder of the dangers of market oversaturation. And according to the director, ten million bicycles will be thrown away by 2020 – producing an incredible 150,000 tons of scrap metal in the process.
22. Corvette sinkhole
Disaster struck Kentucky’s National Corvette Museum in 2014 when an enormous sinkhole devoured eight of the vintage cars. The aftermath of the event was captured on film by a drone sent up by the Engineering Department at the University of Western Kentucky. And the resulting footage – uploaded to YouTube by the Wall Street Journal – is definitely enough to make any car lover recoil.
Thankfully, though, this particular story has a happy ending. After the tireless work of the museum’s staff, every single car was eventually rescued from the 30-foot hole. And the catastrophic event actually had a silver lining for the National Corvette Museum. Happily, the tourist attraction went on to experience a significant uptick in attendance numbers following international media coverage of the sinkhole.
21. Sulawesi earthquake
In September 2018 a magnitude 7.5 earthquake rocked the Minahasa Peninsula in Indonesia. And while the epicenter of the quake was some 43 miles away from the provincial capital of Palu, the severity of the main shock nevertheless reduced a section of the city to rubble. A drone was subsequently sent up to capture the aftermath of the devastating natural disaster.
The video captured by the drone was then uploaded to YouTube by user tdkj82 just weeks after the cataclysmic Sulawesi quake. And the images show the appalling extent of the destruction in Palu. Roofs have been torn from buildings, vast swathes of trees have been felled, and some structures have been completely razed to the ground.
20. Sulawesi tsunami
Sadly, when the Indonesian quake struck, it also triggered a devastating tsunami. Huge waves first hit a beach where festivalgoers had gathered to witness a paragliding event, and they caused an unspeakable number of casualties. Over 4,300 people lost their lives in the tsunami and earthquake, while in excess of 10,000 others were injured.
Once again, a drone was sent up to capture the true reality of the damage caused by the tsunami. And as with the footage recorded following the initial earthquake, the totality of the destruction is heartbreakingly evident. Sadly, the coastal city lies in complete ruins, with huge deposits of water pooling around the debris.
19. Oklahoma tornado
Few places are as notorious for their wild winds as Oklahoma. According to The Washington Post, the state experienced 146 tornados in 2019 – breaking its own single-year record. And when you take that into account, it’s no wonder that storm-chasing companies offering the chance to witness these forces of nature first-hand have popped up.
If you can’t get to Oklahoma yourself, though, you can always just check out drone videos. WeatherNation uploaded a clip showing a drone flying near a tornado in April 2019 – and without getting swept away, either. The UAV recorded gripping footage of the awe-inspiring tempest as it whipped through the Oklahoma plains.
18. Forest fires
Few phenomena are as terrifying as wildfires. These ferocious blazes can rage through forests at up to 14 miles per hour – consuming anything in their way as they go. And since the turn of the millennium, around seven million acres of land on average have been scorched in the U.S. on an annual basis, according to National Geographic. Yet even that sobering statistic is nothing compared to seeing the fiery wrath of nature in action.
In February 2019 YouTube user Sanuck176 captured drone footage of a forest fire, and what was filmed is, quite frankly, shocking. The images show flames ravaging the trees, while in the latter part of the video the smoke billowing out into the sky covers almost the entire landscape.
17. Abandoned Pontiac Silverdome
For 26 years, thousands of football fans flocked to the Pontiac Silverdome to watch the Detroit Lions. Then, in 2002 the team moved to Ford Field – leaving the Silverdome empty. And while a real estate developer from Canada later purchased the stadium and restored it to its former glory, the building’s numerous structural problems ultimately spelled its doom.
When the Silverdome opened its doors in 1975, it was the first stadium to use air pressure to support its fiberglass roof. That construction technique wasn’t able to withstand Michigan’s often-unforgiving weather, however, and so the roof ultimately collapsed in 2013. Then, the following year, Matt Ervin sent his drone up over the Silverdome to capture stark images of the stadium in total disrepair. The last part of the venue was finally demolished in March 2018.
16. Hurricane Maria’s aftermath
Just weeks after Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, another huge storm came to the Caribbean. Puerto Rico faced the brunt of Hurricane Maria, which was the strongest to hit the island in almost a century. According to local officials, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the ensuing disaster. And in the days that followed, a drone operator caught a sliver of the destruction on camera.
What’s most striking about the footage uploaded by The Guardian is the extent of the flooding that ravaged Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, the evocative images of empty homes torn apart by winds and sinking into the water give only a small sense of the damage caused. In all, government officials believe that Hurricane Maria’s destruction caused a minimum of $90 billion in damage; it apparently also wiped out around 80 percent of the island’s agriculture.
15. Abandoned ship graveyard
Between Staten Island and New Jersey, there’s a tidal strait called Arthur Kill that’s home to one of New York City’s spookiest sights: a veritable graveyard of long-abandoned ships. And although the location was once intended to be a scrapyard, the number of boats that poured in ultimately overwhelmed the original owners. Instead, the vessels were simply allowed to rot.
Unfortunately, you can’t check the boats out for yourself, as the area is littered with “no entry” signs. Still, thanks to the efforts of UAV operator Jersey Drone, you can at least see footage of the decaying craft. And there’s something inherently creepy about the ghostly ships – which have rusted red from years of neglect.
14. Honey the dolphin
In the wake of falling visitor numbers, Japan’s Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium closed its doors for good in 2018. But the animals weren’t rehomed after that; instead, the hundreds of reptiles and fish, 46 penguins and a lone bottlenose dolphin named Honey were left to their fate. In response, more than 200,000 people signed a petition asking for the aquarium’s inhabitants to be taken to a sanctuary.
While activists attempted to gather support for the animals, an organization known as the Dolphin Project sent a drone over the facility. And in the heartbreaking footage, Honey can be seen floating aimlessly around her tank – the only sign of life in the otherwise abandoned aquarium. Fortunately, a lone employee continued to care for Honey and the other creatures, while the park itself was bought and reopened in 2019.
13. Abandoned buildings
Like many small towns in England, Hailsham boasts a long and storied history that belies its diminutive size. In fact, the town – which covers just 7.5 square miles – has had people living there since the Neolithic age. But some of the spookiest sites of interest were actually created a little more recently than that.
You see, Hailsham has its fair share of deserted buildings. And while these creepy structures may not be the safest or easiest places to explore on foot, there are still ways to check them out. In 2018, for instance, YouTube user Exploring with Lucy piloted a drone around several of the buildings – including what was once a mill. And the resulting footage paints an eerie picture of the historic British town.
12. Abandoned nuclear power plant
In the 1960s the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) tried to anticipate future demand for electricity by building several nuclear power plants. Among these was the Hartsville Nuclear Plant, where construction kicked off in 1975. Nine years after ground was broken at the site, however, the TVA realized that it had overestimated demand. Ultimately, then, it pulled the plug on the entire Hartsville project.
There are now plans to use part of the land for an industrial park, and in the video you can see various facilities and a completed cooling tower remaining. However, the fences and “no trespassing” signs make it difficult to explore – unless you have a drone, of course. And in 2017 YouTube user Ken Heron sent his craft high above the tower to survey what remains of this monumentally misjudged slice of industrial history.
11. Terrifying lions
Drones can apparently help if you don’t fancy jumping into a lions’ den for real. Just ask travelers and charity owners Mira and James Raley, who piloted their aerial vehicle over a pack of the ferocious animals in 2015. Everything went horribly wrong for their drone after just a few seconds in the air, and the footage it captured after that is truly terrifying.
The Raleys accidentally crashed their flying device into a tree – leaving the drone to topple to the ground. One of the lions then rushed over to investigate before picking up the aircraft and carrying it away. Indeed, the resulting footage is a chilling and awe-inspiring insight into what it’s like to get up close and personal with some of nature’s deadliest creatures.
10. Tiger attack
The Wall Street Journal published a video on YouTube in 2017 which shows drones flying around some tigers at the Siberian Tiger Park in China. But the fierce felines don’t take too kindly when one of the flying cameras gets too close to a group of them. Indeed, the killer kitties are seen chasing it down and snatching the device out of the sky.
Not satisfied with merely tearing the nuisance down, the vicious tigers then proceed to rip the drone apart. It takes only a few seconds before CCTV footage shows smoke billowing from the contraption, before a hapless group of staffers are sent to retrieve what is left of the gadget from the cats’ enclosure.
9. Curious cubs
It’s perhaps in a mother’s nature to be protective of her young. And when these two polar bear cubs became curious to the presence of a drone over their habitat in the remote Somerset Island in Nunavut, Canada, their mom also edged in for a closer look. Momma bear, however, wasn’t too keen on the uninvited guest.
The video clip – uploaded by the YouTube video channel Beastly in 2016 – shows the mother polar bear rearing up on her hind legs and swiping a paw at the flying gadget after it gets too close to the cubs. Then, seemingly uncomfortable with the situation, she is soon seen scurrying away with her babies following closely behind.
8. Shark attack
Sharks are undoubtedly among the most fearsome predators to stalk the world’s oceans. And drones offer some of the best ways for naturalists to observe the creatures in their natural habitat when murky seas make underwater examination harder. As it happened, that is how this unsuspecting seal attack was perfectly captured in a clip published by the Discovery YouTube channel in 2019.
As the wildlife expert in this video describes, “The shark and the seal basically swam into each other’s path, face-to-face. And as the shark saw the seal, it was the fastest recognition of prey that I’ve ever seen. Literally a split second and he was on that seal, it didn’t stand a chance.”
7. When the predator becomes the prey
Certain species of sharks such as the great white are apex predators, though others can sometimes become prey themselves. For instance, this spectacular drone footage captured by operator Curtis Williams shows the frightening moment an anonymous Danish tourist attempted to wrestle a hammerhead shark in the shallows off Florida’s Panama City Beach. What’s more, the beast was believed to be around 11 feet-long.
The Danish holidaymaker is seen approaching his catch in the surf, and he then battles the powerful shark for around an hour before the mighty fish is eventually brought to land. Incredibly, the awesome predator was released shortly after its capture – thankfully leaving its hunter with no injuries.
6. Storm-ravaged theme park
When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana city of New Orleans in 2005, 80 percent of the city was submerged under flood water, according to then-mayor Ray Nagin. One of the local tourist attractions known as Six Flags was particularly badly ravaged by storm winds of up to 175 miles-per-hour and stood under up to 7 feet of water. And the damage was severe enough to permanently close down the theme park.
Today, the park’s gates remain locked, and although several attempts have been made to rejuvenate the attraction, none so far have been successful. Though the theme park’s desolation has served as backdrop for movies such as Jurassic World and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it stands as nothing more than a savage reminder of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction.
5. Military aircraft graveyard
The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, Arizona, has been collecting and storing retired military aircraft since the end of World War II. It is reportedly the largest aircraft boneyard facility in the world, and these unearthly drone shots show the sheer scale of the site.
The footage was made by Andrew Breese for the U.S. Air Force, and it shows a site which spans more than 2,600 acres and holds around 4,000 out-of-service military aircraft, according to Time magazine. The aeroplanes are apparently either stored for potential use in the future or scrapped for spare parts. But whatever the fate of each aircraft, every one carries its own unique story.
4. Descend into an erupting volcano
Drones make it possible to venture into territories unknown. For instance, scientists who study volcanoes and their eruptions might understand a lot about them from studying the geology in the surrounding area. But what can they really know without seeing it up close? Well, drone flights can give the experts an insight never seen before.
Take the Yasur volcano in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, which is among the most active volcanoes on Earth. It’s almost constantly erupting, and for this reason the volcano is popular with tourists hoping to catch a glimpse. However, YouTuber hshdude took a step closer when he flew his drone into an active crater in 2019.
3. Shark bites boat
Movie studios thought the 1975 movie Jaws was so terrifying that they sold it with the tagline, “You’ll never go in the water again.” Well, you may think it’s safe nearly 50 years on, but this shark has other ideas. You see, it’s grown very interested in this boat and its occupants off the coast of Port Lincoln in South Australia.
YouTuber Simon Lawrence filmed the event from his drone and published it on the platform in 2017. He wrote, “The shark surfaced after we pulled [a crab] pot off him while he was swimming off with it. We didn’t drag the shark nor did it drag us. It did, however, put its nose against the motor and started to push us around. It then put its mouth over the echo sounder transducer and bit both motors.”
2. Alien invasion?
There’s a bitter rivalry among crop circle aficionados. You see, some believe they’re created by humans who creatively flatten farmers’ fields in the middle of the night. Others, meanwhile, believe that such mischievousness is far too complex to be carried out so surreptitiously. These people strongly believe, then, that crop circles are created by alien aircraft.
The crop circle captured by this drone in 2015 was in a remote part of Dorset, England. And its filmmaker – YouTube user RunGunGriff – described the location as “out in the middle of nowhere.” He explains in the clip, “[It’s] one of the biggest crop circles I have visited and also one of the most complex.” But surely this was too much work to have been made by extra-terrestrials? The truth, surely, is out there.
1. Radioactive wasteland
In April 1986 an early morning warning rang out to the residents of Pripyat, Ukraine. It said, “The City Counsel of People’s Deputies informs that due to an accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the city of Pripyat an adverse radiation condition has evolved.” However, that announcement massively understated the devastation that befell its residents.
Drone footage shot around 30 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and published on the Wall Street Journal’s YouTube channel shows what remains of Pripyat. Its nearly 50,000 residents were forced to evacuate in the days after the explosion, and many already showed signs of radiation sickness. Trees, too, were killed off from poisonous emissions. And while today some wildlife thrives in the area, there remains a 1,000-square-mile “exclusion zone.”