Drone scenes are not as common in Hollywood blockbusters as you might expect – the US has had a blanket ban on any use of drones for commercial purposes in place since 2011. The FAA finally gave out 6 exemptions to drone filming companies in 2014, and the first films made with footage from these exemptions have been released over the past few years.
Some of the films of our list are recent releases, while others which were filmed in countries with less strict drone laws have been out for some time. Either way, we’re sure you’ll agree, the shots are breath-taking.
1.Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
A film that was shot over 15 years ago, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret’s director was using drone footage before everyone else. With all the impressive CGI that the Harry Potter films are famed for, it easy to see why the stunning drone scenes in the film have been overlooked.
Arguably the most memorable part of the whole film, the flying car scene at the beginning with the Hogwarts train running below was all drone-shot. All we know is, the use of drone footage for this scene certainly added to the magic!
2. Skyfall (2012)
Sam Mendes’ Skyfall was the first James Bond movie to use drones for filming aerial footage. Drones were used to capture the opening motorbike chase scene across the rooftops in Istanbul, where the restrictions placed upon the use of drones for filming were not as strict as the US or elsewhere.
The high-energy scene, where Bond is chasing down a terrorist, made quite the impression on Hollywood. In fact, it was this scene in particular that prompted the first FAA exemptions to be granted.
Flying-Cam, who shot this scene, won the Scientific & Engineering Oscar in 2014 for their Fly-Cam 3.0 SARAH Unmanned Aircraft System. They have used remote-controlled miniature systems since on movies from The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) to The Kite Runner (2007) and all the way up to Skyfall.
3. The Expendables (2013)
From hover-shots over exploding buildings, to dirt-bike jumps, to tank chases – a total of 30 separate drone scenes made it to the final cut of the first Expendables film.
The most notable of these scenes is the opening set-piece, featuring a low-flying helicopter in which characters are chasing a speeding train. With bullets, guns, explosions and a lot of speed, it wouldn’t have been the easiest sequence to capture on a traditional camera mount – which is why they chose to use drones.
Filmed in Bulgaria, the drone scenes offer a level of intimacy that would have been difficult to achieve otherwise and completely immerses you in the scene that’s unfolding.
4. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The drone-filmed scene in the Wolf of Wall Street may not have involved a high-speed chase like many of the other drone on our list, but it’s still memorable nonetheless. This sequence involved flying the drone to glide the camera from the beach towards the wild pool-party that DiCaprio’s character was holding at his Hamptons mansion.
Due to the proximity to the number of actors and extras at the pool party, a helicopter simply couldn’t be used to capture the footage. Thus, the filming company Freely used a Canon C500 camera mounted on one of their octocopter drones to capture the footage with amazing results. Just check out this clip!
5. Chappie (2015)
Of all the films that have been included on this list, none have embraced the use of drones as much as Chappie. Not only were drones used to shoot a ton of the scenes in the film, the actors used even them as a reference point when interacting with characters later added during post-production CGI.
In an interview, John Gore, one of the drone operators on the film, talked about a scene where one of the robot characters runs through a glass window. Traditionally, this shot would have been done on a cable camera, but the quadcopter drone gave the shot a greater sense of speed and movement.
At the start of 2015, only 12 filming companies had commercial drone exemptions in the US. By July of the same year the number had skyrocketed to over 500 – and the UK is no different. So, one thing’s for sure, in the years to come we’ll be seeing many more films hit the cinemas that have employed the use of drones, and we can’t wait to watch them!