The most productive drone footage of 2024 (in step with SkyPixel)


If this collection of best drone photos of 2024 are any indication, drone photography has come a long way since its inception. In 2024, drone photography continued its ascent to new heights, capturing breathtaking landscapes, wildlife encounters and even human endeavors in ways never before possible with a camera on land or a helicopter in the sky.

SkyPixel today announced the winners of its 9th Annual Photo & Video Contest. The winners were selected across more than 130,000 submissions, which is a 100% increase from the previous year.

Out of all 130,000 aerial photos, this was deemed the best drone photo of 2023:

Photo: “Mongolian Yurt” by Daolai

The photo above is titled “Mongolian Yurt,” and it was submitted by the aerial photographer who goes by Daolai.

Daolai shot the image on a snowy morning in the Ulan Butung Grasslands of Inner Mongolia using a Mavic 3 Pro drone. For this specific photo, Daolai capitalized on the drone’s three times zoom functionality.

So what’s so standout about this particular photo against the thousands of other SkyPixel entries?

“Captured this photo depicts herdsmen making preparations for the grassland event,” according to a statement from SkyPixel. “The scene is naturally picturesque, authentically depicting the lives of the herdsmen as they interact with the horses, the camels and the landscape, with their yurt, their homes, as a central focus. Against the stark contrast created by the snow, Daolai found the scene reminiscent of a traditional Chinese ink painting.”

That photo was selected by a judging panel of seasoned experts including:

  • Wen Huang, a World Press Photo judge and Senior Editor
  • Anne Farrar, Assistant Photography Chief Editor at National Geographic
  • Nan Li, the Photo Director of Southern Weekly
  • Daniel Kordan, a renowned landscape photographer

““I was drawn to the storytelling of this image,” Farrar said. “Such a beautiful wispy landscape has a lovely painterly look, very soft and almost feels like powder. A beautiful aerial landscape that doesn’t rely on graphic quality alone and tells a community story.”

Other great drone photos of 2024

While Daolai took the overall grand prize in the SkyPixel 9th Annual Photo & Video Contest, there were plenty of other deserving images. SkyPixel also released the results of the other ‘Top 10’ winners as well as the five ‘Nominated Photo’ winners. Here they are:

Top 10 Photos of 2024

A Bold, Bare-Chested Ride by Parker
A Symphony in Snow by Guofu
Bird’s eye view on Iceland by Pawel Zygmunt
E IN THE LAKE by Ekrem SAHİN
Balloon floating over trees in winter by Jonas Hoffmann
Hunting together by Pham Huy Trung
Motion and Stillness by Patrick Wong
Silence by Nguyen Khanh Vu Khoa
“Fatigue Sleep” by Muhammad Amdad Hossain
Tree of life by Isabella Tabacchi

Top Nominated Photos of 2024

Abyss by Dylan de Haas
Back home by Jeremiasz Gadek
Mining Farm by Xuhaha
Pioneering New Realms by David
“City Spider-Man” by Qihui Chen

What happens to the winners?

Besides honor and exposure, the photographers behind the best drone photos of 2024 actually get physical prizes.

The Annual Best Work prize entailed more than $14,000 worth of gear. That kit included a Hasselblad X2D 100C medium format mirrorless camera, which alone goes for more than $8,000. Additionally, SkyPixel named Daolai as an official SkyPixel Creator (which includes a prestigious trophy and an award certificate).

Meanwhile, the Top Photo winners each received the DJI Mavic 3 Pro Fly More Combo (DJI RC), a trophy, and award certificate, with a total value of nearly $3,000. The Nominated Prizes each received the Osmo Action 4 Adventure Combo and award certificate (worth about $400) and the People’s Choice Prizes received the Osmo Mobile 6 and award certificate (worth about $150).

The 9th Annual SkyPixel Photo & Video Contest winners were selected through a submission period which opened on Nov. 7 2023 and ran through Feb. 2, 2024. All entries had to have been shot on a drone (though it didn’t necessarily have to be a DJI drone).

Curious what the competition was like last year? Check out the winners from the 7th edition of the contest, which were named in 2023. And come back later this week for a guide to the best aerial videos of 2023, also based on SkyPixel winners.

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