Awesome wildlife footage taken with a hobbyist drone

When I went up to Alaska with a handful of photographers last summer, the talk repeatedly turned to using drones for photography. One of the photographers had one at home and loved the landscape shots he could take with it. As nature documentaries such as Winged Planet roll out, with ever more impressive ways of getting views from the sky -- even attaching cameras to birds themselves -- the notion of using drones for photography and film-making is less and less futuristic.

The above footage of a family of coyotes was taken by Thomas Renck of Riverside, CA, whose hobby is using his tricopter to get aerial footage of awesome scenes like this. The video is featured on Mental Floss. Renck is just one of a growing handful of people who are sending their cameras to the skies. And while many may question issues of privacy -- and rightfully so -- it could also mean a growing appreciation of open and wild spaces where filming scenes like this is possible.

He also has this amazing birds-eye view of a red-tailed hawk perched at the top of a tree:

And how about this scene by Elefun taken with a Phantom UAV with a GoPro camera attached:

Mental Floss writes, "Pretty stuff, right? Fast Company's Neal Ungerleider took one for a test spin and loved it. 'Users can knock out professional-quality aerial photography in a matter of minutes,' says Ungerleider. 'Despite the Phantom's relatively limited battery life—about 15 minutes of flight time—that is more than enough time to film stunning aerial video.'"

Drones are being used not only for amateur or professional photographers but also by conservationists as a tool for monitoring areas or species of concern. The technology is arriving and, if used ethically, could be a wonderful boon for wildlife, wild spaces, and advancing the case for conservation.

Awesome wildlife footage taken with a hobbyist drone
Drones may have a reputation for being vehicles for spying, but spying on wildlife is a use we all have to admit we enjoy at least a little (but probably a lot).

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