Until relatively recently, the general public had to rely on professional sources for bird’s-eye views of real-world events and locations. However, commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are now widely available – meaning almost anyone can take advantage of the technology for their own purposes. And while many people have used drones to film glorious landscapes and stunning vistas, others have taken things in a decidedly more disturbing direction.
Not all drone footage is simply a unique vantage point on the beauty of nature. For example, some intrepid pilots have used the technology to explore abandoned urban areas which would otherwise be off-limits. And others have even used drone cameras to highlight serious causes – such as an aquarium full of abandoned animals. The common link between all these clips, though, is how unnerving they all are. So from a creepy cornfield clown to a hauntingly deserted city, let’s take a look at some of them.
20. The streets of Wuhan
In December 2019 a highly infectious respiratory condition known as coronavirus was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan. As a result, this forced the government to place the area under quarantine a month later. Then the following February CTV aired footage of a drone flying through the empty streets of this once-bustling metropolis.
The odd car or motorcyclist show that there a few signs of life, but the city appears mostly abandoned. Shops and restaurants are empty, the airport is deserted and hardly any pedestrians can be seen walking around. The virus has spread worldwide since it was first identified, and nearly 660,000 people have died from coronavirus at the time of writing, according to Worldometer.com.
If you want to see the legendary creature Bigfoot, your best bet may be traveling to Ohio. Rumors have swirled since the 18th century that the enormous hairy beast resides in the state. Indeed, more than 36 alleged sightings have been reported over the past few decades. And thanks to a local drone operator, one of them was apparently captured on video.
In the supposedly unedited clip uploaded by NvTv, the drone takes flight through the trees in Ohio’s Salt Fork State Park. And at first, nothing seems particularly out of the ordinary. But as the camera sweeps through the foliage, an unidentifiable figure can be spotted lurking in the frame. Though whether it really is Bigfoot is impossible to tell.
18. 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 due 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 sightings on camera.
The footage – filmed by YouTube user Furious Otter – opens with a first-person view over the forest. It then 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. 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.
17. 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. Or at least, 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, however, he found something seriously sinister hiding out among the crops – and it was no stuffed scarecrow. In fact, it was actually a person dressed as a clown. And to make the whole scene even stranger, the individual immediately fled the scene upon spotting the drone.
16. Caught napping
Between work, relationships, family, money and chores, the stresses of daily life can often be overwhelming. So it’s no surprise that most of us have likely dreamed about getting away from it all for a while. 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 the incredible images of a man taking a nap atop a wind turbine – in footage uploaded by Inside Edition. Presumably, the guy just wanted a few hours to get some peace and quiet. Alas, he didn’t account for modern technology.
15. Shark feeding frenzy
Nature can be beautiful – but it can also be 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 Shark Bay.
Fortunately, none of the passengers were harmed. They instead witnessed the ferocity of nature first-hand, as dozens of tiger sharks swarmed around a floating whale carcass. And as they began to feast, the company Eco Abrolhos Cruises launched a drone to capture the awesome sight. While the resulting footage is undoubtedly impressive, the crystal-clear water running red is nevertheless chilling to see.
14. 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 claimed the lives of 173 people. In the aftermath, a drone was sent up above the area, and the footage that the plane captured paints a horrific picture.
It’s not hard to imagine the station once thriving, but the camera only sees the devastating effects of the chemical explosions. Indeed, 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.
13. China’s bicycle graveyards
Bike sharing became a huge hit in China in 2017, but too many companies jumped on the trend too quickly. The result was a supply that vastly outstripped demand. And soon, millions of discarded bicycles began to pile up – forcing local authorities to impound them in enormous “bicycle graveyards.” A year later, director Wu Guoyong sent a drone up to film the consequences of unregulated growth.
Guoyong told media outlets that his aim was to “ask social questions with a camera” – and his haunting footage certainly does that. Evidently, the millions of unwanted, rusting bicycles are a pressing reminder of the dangers of market oversaturation. According to the director, ten million bicycles will be thrown away by 2020 and this will produce an incredible 150,000 tons of scrap metal.
12. Corvette sinkhole
Disaster struck Kentucky’s National Corvette Museum in 2014 when an enormous sinkhole swallowed up eight of the vintage cars. The aftermath of the event was captured on film by a drone sent by the Engineering Department at the University of Western Kentucky. And the footage – uploaded to YouTube by the Wall Street Journal – shows the classic automobiles languishing in ruin. Indeed, it’s enough to make any car enthusiast recoil.
But this particular story thankfully has a happy ending. The museum’s staff worked tirelessly over the months that followed, and every single car was eventually rescued from the 30-foot hole. Furthermore, the catastrophic event actually became a net positive result for the National Corvette Museum. That’s because the tourist attraction experienced a significant uptick in attendance numbers thanks to the global media coverage of the event.
11. Sulawesi earthquake
In September 2018 a magnitude 7.5 earthquake rocked the Minahasa Peninsula in Indonesia. Its epicenter was some 43 miles away from the provincial capital of Palu. However, such was the severity of the main shock that the quake ripped through the city – reducing many of its buildings to rubble. A drone was then subsequently sent up to capture the aftermath of the devastating natural disaster.
The drone’s footage was uploaded to YouTube by user tdkj82 just weeks after the cataclysmic Sulawesi earthquake. And the images show the appalling extent of the destruction that occurred in the city. Roofs have been torn from buildings, vast swathes of trees have been felled, and some structures have been completely shredded to the ground.
10. Sulawesi tsunami
Sadly, when the Indonesian quake struck it also triggered a devastating tsunami. The waves first hit a beach where festivalgoers had gathered to witness an international paragliding event. Tragically, very few survived; over 4,300 people lost their lives in the tsunami and earthquake, and a further 10,000 people 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 – which was uploaded by the same YouTube user – the totality of the destruction is heartbreakingly evident. Sadly, the coastal city lies in complete ruins, and huge deposits of water pool around the debris.
9. 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. It’s no wonder, then, that storm chasing companies have popped up in Tornado Alley which offer the chance to witness these forces of nature first-hand.
If you can’t get there yourself, though, you can always just check out drone footage. Yes, WeatherNation uploaded a clip showing a drone flying near a tornado in April 2019 – without it getting swept away. As a result, the UAV recorded gripping footage of the awe-inspiring tempest as it whipped through the Oklahoma plains.
8. Forest fires
Few phenomena are as terrifying as wildfires. They can rage through forests at up to 14 miles per hour – consuming anything in their way. And the flames have scorched around seven million acres of land on average in the U.S. annually since the turn of the millennium, according to National Geographic. However, reading those stats is nothing like seeing the fiery wrath of nature in action.
In February 2019 YouTube user Sanuck176 captured drone footage of a forest fire, and the results are shocking. The images show flames ravaging the trees and smoke billowing out into the sky. Furthermore, the latter part of the video alludes to quite how devastating the blaze is, as smoke covers almost the entire landscape.
7. Abandoned Pontiac Silverdome
For 26 years from 1975, thousands of football fans flocked to the Pontiac Silverdome to watch the Detroit Lions. But in 2002 the team moved to a new stadium, Ford Field, and the former was left empty. Eventually, a real estate developer from Canada purchased the stadium at auction. And, for a few years at least, it was restored to its former glory. But by 2013 the stadium’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. However, that construction technique wasn’t able to withstand Michigan’s unforgiving weather conditions, and the roof collapsed in 2013. The following year, Matt Ervin sent his drone up over the Silverdome – capturing stark images of the stadium in total disrepair. The last part of the venue was then finally demolished in March 2018.
6. Hurricane Maria’s aftermath
Just weeks after being hit by Hurricane Irma 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. The evocative images of empty homes torn apart by winds and sinking into the water give a small sense of the damage caused. In all, government officials reckon Hurricane Maria’s destruction caused at the very least $90 billion in damage – with the storm wiping out around 80 percent of the island’s agriculture.
5. Abandoned ship graveyard
Between Staten Island and New Jersey, there’s a tidal strait called Arthur Kill. And it’s home to one of New York City’s spookiest sights: a veritable graveyard of long-abandoned ships. The site was once intended to be a scrapyard, but the number of boats that poured in overwhelmed the original owners. Instead, the vessels have simply been allowed to rot.
Unfortunately, you can’t check the vessels out for yourself because the area is littered with “no entry” signs. But, 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 touring through the ghostly ships – which have rusted red from years of neglect.
4. 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; instead, the hundreds of reptiles and fish, along with 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 animals 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 animals, while the park itself was purchased and reopened in 2019.
3. 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 – was first settled some 12,000 years ago during the Neolithic age. So there’s undoubtedly plenty to see, but some of the spookiest sites of interest are a little more recent.
You see, Hailsham has its fair share of deserted buildings. And while they may not the safest or easiest places to explore on foot, there are ways to check out the creepy structures. For instance, YouTube user Exploring with Lucy piloted a drone around several of them in 2018 – including what was once a mill. And the resulting footage paints an eerie picture of the historic British town.
2. Abandoned nuclear power plant
In the 1960s the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) tried to plan for future demand for electricity by building several nuclear power plants. Among those was the Hartsville Nuclear Plant, where construction kicked off in 1975. But nine years later, the TVA realized it had overestimated demand, and it pulled the plug on the entire 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 April 2017 YouTube user Ken Heron sent his craft high above the tower – capturing what remains of the monumentally misjudged slice of industrial history
Drones can apparently help if you don’t fancy jumping into a lions’ den for real. Just ask travellers and charity owners Mira and James Raley, who piloted their aerial vehicle over a pack of the ferocious animals in 2015. But everything went horribly wrong for their drone after just a few seconds in the air, and the footage that followed is truly terrifying.
The Raleys accidentally crashed their flying device into a tree and it ended up toppling to the ground. One of the lions then rushed over to investigate – before picking up the aircraft and carrying it away. 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.