Lonely Planet Writer

How drones are changing the face of travel with eye-popping videography

Drones may have been invented for military use, but the tiny radio-controlled airships have come into their peaceful own as an innovative way to film travel-themed video. New websites and award competitions are spotlighting this state-of-the-art way for travellers to get a fresh look at destinations.

Penguins in Antartica
Penguins in Antartica Image by Courtesy of www.airpano.com

In March 2015, the New York City Drone Festival became the first awards competition for the genre. In its category for travel landscape aerial video, it gave top honors to “Koh Yao Noi,” which filmmaker Philip Bloom has described as “a journey through a remote and undeveloped island of the coast of Thailand”. The festival’s audience award went to a three-minute aerial view of Mexico Airport by Tarsicio Sanudo Suárez.

A seal photobombing via drone in South Georgia.
A seal photobombing via drone in South Georgia. Image by Courtesy of www.airpano.com

A couple of websites are championing drone travel videos, too. Founded in March 2014, TravelwithDrone.com spotlights aerial photography of top destinations. Some of its most eye-popping additions in April 2015 include “Cork from Above,” a bird’s-eye look at an Irish port town and “Mauritius in 4K”, with views of waterfalls and beaches of the island nation in the Indian Ocean. (The latter video was shot on a camera that can take images with 4K resolution — extra-sharp at 4,000-pixels-wide.)

For a different twist on aerial photography, a filmmaker can choose to shoot spherical panoramic images, which are later stitched together with software to create interactive visuals that let an online viewer pan up and down, left and right, 360 degrees. To do this, a filmmaker places a DSLR camera with a wide-angle lens on a drone.

Drones a serious threat to commercial aircraft.
Drones capture amazing images. Image by Don McCullough / CC BY 2.0

In the past year, AirPano, a nonprofit Russian aerial photography consortium, has begun using drones capable of creating spherical panoramas. In November 2014, drones were vital to its tour of Antartica because they were much much less disruptive to wildlife than helicopters would have been.

Case in point: AirPano has posted an online a visual tour of a penguin colony, an iceberg, and the Polar Pioneer expedition ship in the South Atlantic Ocean.