When used properly, technology sure can be a real boon for humanity. For instance, the Internet alone makes information more accessible than previous generations ever thought possible.

Drone technology has also allowed us to see places that we never thought we’d be able to go. While most drone footage results in breathtaking images around the world, other footage has revealed that the Earth can be a sad, destructive, and terrifying place.

1. Syria: The Syrian Civil War has been absolutely devastating for those caught in the crossfire over the past several years. Here, a drone photographs Syrian tanks that have both caused and received a great deal of damage.

2-forbidden-drone-footageRussia Insider / Youtube

Although it was once Syria’s third-largest city, Homs was virtually destroyed after a bloody, four-year battle between the government and the opposition, which killed thousands of people over time and left the city in ruins.

3-forbidden-drone-footageRussia Insider / Youtube

2. Beijing, China: American expat Trey Ratcliff learned the hard way why Beijing’s imperial palace is known as “The Forbidden City.” It should be no surprise that flying over the headquarters of the Chinese government and its intelligence hubs is ill-advised.

4-forbidden-drone-footageTrey Ratcliff

Thankfully, Ratcliff was able to snap some aerial footage before his drone was caught and he was arrested by Chinese authorities. “Deciding to fly a drone over China is kind of like Luke Skywalker deciding to ride his land speeder on the Death Star,” Ratcliff said.

5-forbidden-drone-footageTrey Ratcliff

3. Pripyat, Ukraine: The fallout from the infamous 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster is evident to this day. Nuclear safety, quite understandably, became a large concern immediately following the events of the accident.

6-forbidden-drone-footageAshley Shepherd / Youtube

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone’s Duga System was built to detect missile attacks with an early-warning radar network. It emitted such a strong signal that even radio users in the United States could hear its “clicks.” As such, it received the nickname “Russian Woodpecker.” It’s since been abandoned.

7-forbidden-drone-footageAshley Shepherd / Youtube

4. Kazantyp, Crimea: The Crimean Atomic Energy Station had been under construction since as early as 1976. Despite all of the time, energy, and money that went into it, geological instability caused the project to be abandoned.

8-forbidden-drone-footageRT / Youtube

The Crimean Atomic Energy Station was the site of the KaZantip electronic music festival (you might possibly know it better as “Reaktor”) from 1993 to 1999. An anonymous buyer purchased the location in 2005.

9-forbidden-drone-footageRT / Youtube

5. Ōkuma, Fukushima, Japan: The 9.0 magnitude earthquake that rattled Ōkuma in 2011 caused a chain reaction, triggering a tsunami that crushed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

10-forbidden-drone-footageNoguchi Katsuya / Youtube

After the nuclear meltdown, Ōkuma became a ghost town. It will likely take decades for the city to be inhabited again; thankfully, life has been somewhat restored in other parts of the Fukushima Prefecture.

11-forbidden-drone-footageNoguchi Katsuya / Youtube

6. Area 51, Nevada: A number of different tales—especially those concerning those infamous UFO sightings—have surrounded the U.S. Air Force base (dubbed “Area 51”) in Nevada since as far back as the 1950s.

12-forbidden-drone-footageHans Faulkner / Youtube

Soon after photographer Hans Faulkner snapped this drone footage in August 2015, “no drones” signs were promptly posted around the government-controlled region, making these images even rarer than ever before.

13-forbidden-drone-footageHans Faulkner / Youtube

7. Debaltsevo, Ukraine: When the Russian military annexed Crimea in 2014, it sparked an ongoing conflict between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian forces. These images show the remains of an encirclement of tanks.

14-forbidden-drone-footageRuptly TV / Youtube

The area is now known as Debaltsevo Cauldron, a reference to the heated battle that took place between January and February of 2015. The drone footage was posted online the next year, but there are still remnants of tanks and other military vehicles spread out across the area.

15-forbidden-drone-footageRuptly TV / Youtube

8. Tar Heel, North Carolina: Drone footage guided by filmmaker Mark Devries revealed the terrible practices of a pig factory farm owned by the world’s biggest supplier of pork, Smithfield Foods.

16-forbidden-drone-footageSpeciesismTheMovie / Youtube

Devries was horrified to find out that the factory farm operators were filling up an open crater of otherwise dry terrain by draining the pig waste into it. The makeshift “lake” was then emptied into nearby bodies of water, creating a health risk for the residents of the areas, many of whom have lower incomes.

17-forbidden-drone-footageSpeciesismTheMovie / Youtube

9. Tesla Tower, Russia: The Tesla Tower was a “lightning machine” from the Soviet period that generated so much electricity that it made an explorer’s hair stand on end. A 200-meter-long lightning bolt then hit just a few yards away, proving that after all that time, the facility is still active.

18-forbidden-drone-footageRT / Youtube

Once the Soviet Union met its demise, it was assumed that the tower had been abandoned, but that wasn’t exactly the case. Russian media correspondents were invited to a demonstration of how the tower measures lightning resistance on industrial metal parts. Each test releases the equivalent energy of 25,000 electricity sockets.

19-forbidden-drone-footageRT / Youtube

10. Spitsbergen, Norway: On an island roughly 650 miles from the North Pole, in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, is a vault that can help assure the continuation of our species. Inside are 860,000 “backup” seed samples, just in case we lose our crops.

20-forbidden-drone-footageTerje Weiseth / Youtube

Drone footage reveals the vault’s remote location in all its glory. Designed in 2006 to keep out moisture, it’s supposed to be so barren that the facility will remain dry even in the event that the polar ice caps melt. Temperatures are kept at -18°C (about -.4°F)!

21-forbidden-drone-footageTerje Weiseth / Youtube

These discoveries may not have been possible if not for some groundbreaking aerial photography. And that’s where the work of Alex MacLean comes in handy. In addition to being a photographer, MacLean is also a pilot, and he uses these skills to capture unbelievable photos of our world from above.

1. Look at this stunning picture of a massive group of flamingos taking off at once. They’re all gracefully leaving the ocean’s surface, leaving droplets of water to create brilliant ripples below them.

01-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

2. This is a really cool photo of a water park in Ocean City, Maryland. The shapes and colors look cartoonish, which makes sense since water parks are supposed to be for young kids! The swirly slides and multi-colored tents give this picture a lot of visual variety.

02-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

3. It’s always amazing to see people from way up above because they look like tiny ants. This wave pool is dotted with sunbathers who all want to escape the heat and take a dip in the crystal-clear water of the pool.

03-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

4. You might look at this picture and immediately think these shapes are flowers floating in a pool of black ink. If you look closely, though, you’ll see they’re actually rounded docks full of boats. Such a beautiful photo!

04-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

5. Check out this jam-packed parking lot at a race track. It must have been a crowded day at the races if all these people showed up. Parking must have been a nightmare, but finding your car afterward was probably even worse!

05-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

6. Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches, perfect weather, and, if you’re a surfer, radical waves! Here’s a group of surfers at Sunset Beach carving up the waters and, hopefully, keeping an eye out for sharks.

06-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

7. Looking at massive objects from afar really takes the intimidation factor away from them. You’ve probably seen those huge shipping containers before, but the view of those huge boxes of metal from this high up makes them seem like a child’s LEGO set.

07-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

8. Here’s a picture of dozens of coal trains all loaded up and ready to make their long trips across the country. From this distance, the trains look like they could be the treads on a tire or a bicycle, but, alas, they’re only trains.

08-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

9. Olympia, Washington, boasts a heavy logging industry, and this picture clearly proves it. Here, hundreds of enormous logs float in the water, sectioned off by other logs to keep the whole mess of wood organized.

09-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

10. The fact that roads have been built all over the country to get us anywhere we need to travel is pretty astounding. This is a snapshot of a multi-tiered highway in New Mexico. The light cast by the sunset is gorgeous while everyone is out for a leisurely drive.

10-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

11. This watercolor-looking design isn’t a design at all—it’s actually magenta-colored water currents seen from miles away. The way the light plays off the water from this particular angle makes them a fantastic hue of purple.

11-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

12. Many people are trying to move away from coal energy, and they’re turning to solar energy because it’s far more environmentally friendly. Here’s an intense picture of a solar farm; this must be producing a lot of energy!

12-alex-maclean-photos1Alex MacLean

13. This trail left by a snowblower, when on ground level, would look like nothing more than a snow-less line in this field. But from up above, it looks like a slithery black serpent making its way over a snowy surface.

13-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

14. This farm in Arizona is absolutely stunning. The variety of fruits and vegetables it’s growing makes for multicolored stripes that, from above, appear like vibrant strands of yarn or some other fabric.

14-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

15. Snake River Valley is a huge plot of land that sits mainly in Idaho, but a little of it spills over into Wyoming as well. This overhead photo shows the intricate irrigation systems used to bring water to the land.

15-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

16. It’s incredible to think about how much sprawling farmland the United States has. If you’ve ever driven through the Midwest, it’s impossible not to notice the mile-long stretches of corn, or in this case, wheat!

16-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

17. If no one told you this was a photo of grain fields in Vermont, you’d likely think it was some kind of fabric on clothing or furniture. From up here, the greenery looks soft to the touch, and the hills look smooth and gentle.

17-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

18. Hopefully a lot of people in Emden, Germany enjoy driving all-white vehicles. These newly packed German cars are getting ready for distribution. Imagine trying to find your car if this was a parking lot? You’d immediately give up!

18-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

19. It must have been autumn when MacLean took this picture based on the beautiful colors of all the trees in this parking lot. Fall is always the best time of year to photograph nature, and this picture definitely proves it.

19-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

20. Going out for a boat ride is always a relaxing way to spend your day, especially if you have good company along with you. But it looks like whoever took these tiny vessels out didn’t do a wonderful job of parking them when they docked!

20-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

21. Nowadays, with the pace at which people are moving into certain desirable areas, it seems like entire housing developments can suddenly spring up out of nowhere. Imagine moving into this new development as a kid and getting lost. Every street looks identical!

21-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

22. Here’s another amazing picture of people enjoying the water in Hawaii. A small group of beachgoers are enjoying a volleyball game on a sandbank. The crystal clear water makes you wish you were there with them.

22-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

23. During those dog days of summer, there’s nothing better than lounging out sunbathing beside a swimming pool. These people have all gathered to quench their thirst for relaxation, and it looks like it’s working perfectly.

23-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

24. These are the shores of Italy. The water gradually becomes a mesmerizing shade of blue as it leads out into the ocean, and the sunbathers sitting on shore are certainly indulging in the magnificent view out into the sea.

24-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

25. This intimidating fleet of aerial warriors are decommissioned B1 bombers laying vacant in Arizona. From way up in MacLean’s plane, the bombers look like little toys, ready to take off into the hands of an imaginative child.

25-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean

26. This photo is so unique it doesn’t even look real; it seems like an abstract painting from some Picasso-esque artist. But it’s actually an amazing image of some United States strip mines. It gives you a whole different perspective on what the mining industry is like.

27. At first glance, the rectangular pink shape in this photo looks like a cake with pink icing; you almost want to take a knife and cut a nice corner piece for dessert. But it’s simply a tarp covered with cement blocks. Nowhere near as delicious, but definitely still pretty!

27-alex-maclean-photosAlex MacLean