Drone technology has allowed us to see places that we never thought we’d be able to go. While most drones are used to show breathtaking images that help us appreciate the incredible world in which we live, others have proven that the Earth can be a sad, destructive, and terrifying place.

The following images definitely belong in the latter category, but they absolutely must be seen. Without this technology, it would be too dangerous for any human to visit in person otherwise.

1. Syria

The Syrian Civil War has been devastating for those caught in the crossfire. Here, a drone photographs Syrian tanks.
2-forbidden-drone-footageRussia Insider / Youtube

Once Syria’s third-largest city, Homs was virtually destroyed after a four-year battle between the government and the opposition killed thousands 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 called “The Forbidden City.”

4-forbidden-drone-footageTrey Ratcliff

It should be no surprise that flying over the headquarters of the Chinese government and its intelligence hubs is ill-advised.

Thankfully, Ratcliff was able to snap some aerial footage before his drone was caught and he was arrested by Chinese authorities.

5-forbidden-drone-footageTrey Ratcliff

“Deciding to fly a drone over China is kind of like Luke Skywalker deciding to ride his land speeder on the Death Star,” Ratcliff says

3. Pripyat, Ukraine

The fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster is evident to this day.

6-forbidden-drone-footageAshley Shepherd / Youtube

Nuclear safety, quite understandably, became a large concern after the accident.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone’s Duga System was built to detect missile attacks with an early-warning radar network.

7-forbidden-drone-footageAshley Shepherd / Youtube

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 has since been abandoned and suffered decay.

4. Kazantyp, Crimea

The Crimean Atomic Energy Station had been under construction since 1976; geological instability caused the project to be abandoned.

8-forbidden-drone-footageRT / Youtube

It was the site of the KaZantip electronic music festival (you know it as “Reaktor”) from 1993 to 1999. An anonymous buyer purchased it 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

More than 150,000 people across the country and 11,515 residents of Ōkuma were forced to evacuate their homes due to the tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

After the nuclear meltdown caused by the tsunami, Ōkuma became a ghost town.

11-forbidden-drone-footageNoguchi Katsuya / Youtube

It will likely take decades until the city can be inhabited again; thankfully, life has been somewhat restored in other parts of the Fukushima area.

6. Area 51, Nevada

Tales — especially those concerning UFO sightings — have surrounded the U.S Air Force base (dubbed “Area 51”) in Nevada since the 1950s.

12-forbidden-drone-footageHans Faulkner / Youtube

Soon after Hans Faulkner snapped this drone footage in August 2015, “no drones” signs were promptly posted, making these images even more rare.

13-forbidden-drone-footageHans Faulkner / Youtube

7. Debaltsevo, Ukraine

When the Russian military annexed Crimea in 2014, it sparked an ongoing conflict between the Ukranian 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.

15-forbidden-drone-footageRuptly TV / Youtube

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.

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

Hidden in a remote part of North Carolina that was far from the public eye, the huge red lake you see above is actually filled with urine and feces from thousands of pigs.

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.

17-forbidden-drone-footageSpeciesismTheMovie / Youtube

The makeshift “lake” is then emptied into nearby bodies of water, creating a health risk for the residents of the areas, many of whom have lower incomes.

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.

18-forbidden-drone-footageRT / Youtube

A 200-meter long lightning bolt then hit just a few yards away, proving that after all this time, the facility is still active.

Once the Soviet Union met its demise, it was assumed that the tower had been abandoned, but that wasn’t exactly the case.

19-forbidden-drone-footageRT / Youtube

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.

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 groundbreaking drone technology. Drones can sometimes get a bad rap, but these photos prove that they can have positive applications.

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