Stunning Images Win 2016 International Drone Photography Contest

An image of Denmark's Kalbyris Forest took first place in the Nature category in this year's contest. Michael Bernholdt
An image of Denmark's Kalbyris Forest took first place in the Nature category in this year's contest. Michael Bernholdt


While the word "drone" popped up in a more sinister context over the past decade — referencing remote bombings and invasions of privacy, for instance — everyday citizens have warmed up to the commercial and hobbyist aspects of the flying robots. Drones have become popular in cinematography, speed contests, scientific experiments and innovative photography.

That last use is the focus of the Dronestagram, a French online platform where users can share their drone-assisted photography and videos. In cooperation with organizations like National Geographic and the international hotel chain Sofitel, Dronestagram just hosted its third annual drone photography contest. Submissions came from across the globe, comprising pro photographers and amateurs alike.

A panel of judges, including a number of National Geographic staffers, selected winners in three categories — Travel, Adventure/Sports and Nature/Wildlife — based on the images' creativity and photographic quality, as well as an intangible drone-ness.

"A good drone photo is a picture that you immediately identify as a drone photo: it is taken at a low altitude, near the target of the picture, and you must see on the picture that it is impossible it has been taken with another device than a drone," says Guillaume Jarret, co-founder of the platform. "Drones can capture images in places that are impossible to reach with another flying device." 

Prizes included international hotel stays, travel gear and high-end drones outfitted with advanced cameras. Check out a sampling of the top shots below:

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The third-place winner in the Travel category captured this image of beachgoers on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria.
Karolis Janulis
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This overhead shot of the Piton de la Fournaise volcano on the Indian Ocean's Runion island nabbed third place in the Nature/Wildlife category.
Jonathan Payet/Dronestagram
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This overhead photo of athletes warming up in a pool in Colombia won second place in the Sport/Adventure field.
Juan Pablo Bayona aka Losmanesdeldrone/Dronestagram

You can see the rest of the winning images here on Dronestagram's site.