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Find high flying inspiration with the NYC Drone Film Festival's incredible winning videos

Why it matters to you

Just what can a drone do? Taking a look at this year's NYCDFF winners offers a pretty good glimpse from flight tricks to drones decorating a cake.

From an aerial view of the Dakota Pipeline protests to flying with the eagles, camera drones have enabled some incredible views — and the third annual New York City Drone Film Festival (NYCDFF) brought the best drone views all in one place. A panel of judges selected the top views from the sky on March 18 and 19, creating an incredible, inspiring list of drone cinematography.

The event launched in 2015 as the first festival to focus solely on drone cinematography. The event crowns winners in 10 different video categories and one still image award. “[Drones] can go anywhere you want — and that’s amazing — as long as the operator is good enough to put it there,” Randy Scott Slavin, NYCDFF founder and festival director, told CBS News. “…people are just starting to understand the creative power of drones and starting to incorporate them.”

32 films battled for the category titles and overall Best in Show award — here’s the footage that came out on top.

Best In Show and X-Factor Category Winner

This mixed motion project (featured above) from Ilko Iliev and Marin Kafedjiiski, of Bulgaria, follows an athlete through a wide variety of environments, mixing in rooftop jumping and scaling buildings with wakeboarding in an urban canal. The drone offers a bird’s eye view while keeping the athlete in the center of the frame through multiple scene changes, impressive stunts and even some Super Mario humor until he crawls to a stop at the end — which is the same place the footage began.

News & Documentary

Drone operators covered the Dakota Pipeline from the skies, displaying the scale of the protests from the sky. Watch the views from the protests — and watch police attempt to keep the keep the drones from documenting the protest by taking shots at the quadcopters, from category winner and YouTube channel AJ+.

Narrative

Drones can be powerful storytelling tools — even if that story is fiction. This small-scale Star Wars from U.S.-based Corridor Digital won the NYCDFF narrative category.

Landscape

UAVs bring in the possibility of going beyond simple panning and zooming — watch Wild Pacific Media’s winning landscape video capture aerial views, then fly upside down and reverse it into a new scene with some impressive flight and editing effects.

Extreme Sports

In Cala d’En Serra by the U.K.’s Giles Campbell Longley and Kie Willis, watch how drones offer both high and low perspectives to create this action video.

Freestyle FPV

In drone cinematography, flight skills are often just as essential as videography skills. Watch this drone fly through even the narrow gap in a bicycle in Robert McIntosh’s freestyle category winner.

Architecture

Drones tend to favor the outdoors — but there’s no reason why they can’t capture impressive shots inside a historic building with the right pilot. Check out the views of the Byzantine by Joris Favraud of France.

Featuring Drones

Who says drones are only good for flying? In this video featuring drones (instead of one shot by them), the UAVs work to decorate a cake — and it certainly doesn’t look like a piece of cake.

Dronie

Of course, drones are also pretty good selfie stick replacements. Check out the Dronie winner by Florian Fischer of Germany.

Showreel

Meshing the best shots of the year into one showreel, this category winner by Koptercam of Finland showcases some pretty neat drone footage.

Still Photography

The winners also included a still photograph by Wellington Rodrigues of Germany called Sea and Salt, shot in a pink salt lake in Torrevieja, Spain.