Drone Camera Captures Devastating Tornado From the Air

A drone managed to stay aloft while it recorded the colossal damage caused by a tornado that devastated a Kansas neighborhood last Friday.

The twister struck Andover, Kansas, a suburb of Wichita, in the evening on April 29th. Sirens alerted citizens of the danger that afternoon, but drone operator and tornado chaser Reed Timmer — in footage spotted by DroneDJ — interpreted the call as an opportunity to go to work.

Timmer is not just a drone pilot, though. He also holds a PhD in meteorology and has appeared on the Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers. The Andover tornado footage could be his best performance yet.

According to the National Weather Service, winds raged up to 165 mph and the tornado spent about twenty minutes tearing up neighborhoods and the local YMCA. Yet Timmer’s drone, a DJI Mavic Air 2S — an affordable option that retails for around $1000 — held steady beside the storm.

On his Twitter, Timmer describes in meteorological terms why his drone flew undisturbed.

“I can’t even describe how calm/laminar the atmosphere was around the Andover tornado. Hardly even a breeze felt by the drone,” Timmer says. “Exactly what was expected with being so close to a tornado like that touching down via dynamical pipe.”

As shown in his video, the terrifying pipe moves down the street like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up roofs, walls, cars, and even entire houses. In its wake, a confetti of housing materials and personal articles swirl peacefully hundreds of feet high. Some homes sustained heavy damage while those nearby remained unscathed. A few injuries were reported, but Kansas residents know to prepare for tornadoes and stay safe. As a result, there were no deaths.

Another drone pilot cruised over the area after the tornado had left town. Zach Peterson recorded incredible footage that shows just how violent the storm had been. One house had its roof ripped off so cleanly that the fly-over captures the whole upstairs floor plan, including the bathroom where the toilet is clearly recognizable and intact.

The Andover tornado drone footage displays why it’s not recommended that people come this close to potentially deadly storms while at the same time showcasing the ability of drones to record dramatic scenes. This makes for entertaining viewing but could also help meteorologists study the behavior of tornadoes in action.