December 29, 2016 4:00 AM EST

Photography aims to show what has not been seen. Drone photography achieves that, providing a new perspective on the world from points we cannot easily reach.

This year, thousands of images were submitted to the Dronestagram and Skypixel competitions, including the photograph of a gold trout circle underwater that would have been difficult to see from the ground. Another organized the chaos of a pool packed with young swimmers preparing for competitions in Colombia. And yet another outlined the process of haystack production in Romania.

In 2016, drones also became more affordable and easier to use. Every time a drone lifts off, it raises the bar.

There’s no doubt that in 2017 we can expect to be continually surprised by drones’ ability to show us what we thought we knew and bring us to places we are yet to go.

Josh Raab is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

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Contact us at letters@time.com.

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