Nat Geo Photographer Crashes His Camera Drone in China’s Enshi Grand Canyon

Flipping through the pages of National Geographic might give aspiring shooters the impression that the magazine’s photographers never run into issues. Many years of experience and incredible talent combine for a seamless photo experience where accidents never happen, right? Not really…

In the clip above — originally published on the National Geographic blog PROOF — at first everything seems to be going well for Nat Geo’s Carsten Peter, who is currently on assignment in China following a team of North Face climbers (seen around 38 seconds in) as they explore and climb karst formations the world over.

But then, while Peter and remote imaging engineer Brad Henning are trying to bring the copter back in, it stops responding to controls, plummeting to the ground in the middle of China’s Enshi Grand Canyon. This is what Peter found when he finally tracked the helicopter down:


Yeah, it’s not pretty… but according to the PROOF article, this story has a happy ending! Despite the camera gimbal being broken off, three broken copter arms, cables ripped and in shambles, retractable landing gear toast and much more, they managed to fix it!

You see, things go wrong on National Geographic assignments all the time — paragliding Nat Geo photog George Steinmetz once crashed into a tree during takeoff — the question is, how do you react to these challenging situations? Peter and Henning fixed what looked to be a hopeless wreck of a drone copter, and Steinmetz was back in the air the next morning.

Crashing a Helicopter Camera in China’s Enshi Grand Canyon [PROOF via ISO 1200]

  • Scott M.

    “Emily, I found the copter.”
    “Good, that’s awesome”
    “But it doesn’t look awesome…”

    Nice video!

  • Brian Sutter

    Overcomplicated drones = short flights ending up with gravity taking over. Phantom and a Hero, never fly better!!!

  • tyrohne

    stop calling them ‘drones’

  • Wodan74

    Sigh… typical NGC to make drama of everything. That’s the reason why I totally gave up on these sensation story driven channels… BBC’s documentaries are far more interesting because they focus on the science and beautiful images.

  • Eduardo Lavratti

    Hey man … and if you put a fire in this forest ? to fly in the forest you need a batery protection and a more PROFESSIONAL equipment. I am developer of a very secure equipment to use in this type of environment. Way ? because i only fly in this environment.

  • Jeb Springfield

    it needs a failsafe parachute

  • Lauren

    I wonder if the red indicator light on one of the rotors was an indicator things were not working right?

  • 3m3l3n

    thats an S800.. very expensive hexacopter, definitely professional enough for that kind of environment… those can cost up to $6000 excluding the camera! plus, as a pilot myself, i Doubt they were planning on flying into the forest, rather over it.

  • 3m3l3n

    Dont say such things. I had a phantom randomly disconnect from its gps module in the mountains and never saw it again… plus, any amount of DIY on a phantom is super expensive (DJI are rip-offs) and those puny little motors would struggle to lift more than one battery with a gimbal and gopro attached.

  • SiriusPhotog

    I know this comment will start a sh!t storm but is anyone else tired of these things yet? I was recently in Grand Canyon on a backpacking trip there to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the location and suddenly had one of these things buzz me from nowhere. Not a big fan and I only see it getting worse, not better.

  • tyrohne

    Technically, whoever was using it in Grand Canyon National Park was breaking the law. They are forbidden.

    By ‘buzz you’ do you mean you saw one being flown?

  • SiriusPhotog

    15-20′ above my head, moving fast. Never even saw the person that was flying it. Went over our head and turned around, came back over a second time then went over some trees and never saw it again. Very annoying. I’m sure the person flying it was in sight, but not moving so hard to spot.