At 4:30 in the morning, mysteriously shrouded in clouds, this is what the second tallest building in Shanghai looks like. – Rex Zou

Love them or loathe them, drones have democratized aerial photography, once an elaborate and costly operation. These flying robots, which have become increasingly affordable in recent years, are contentious as they pose dangers to privacy and security but also allow photographers to capture impressive images from viewpoints that they couldn’t reach before. A sign of their newfound role as a legitimate form of photography is the annual Drone Photo Awards, a section of the Siena International Photo Awards, which announced its 2020 winners on September 21.

The contest, divided into nine categories spanning urban landscapes to wildlife, responded to the events of 2020 with a new category dedicated to images that capture the impact of the coronavirus pandemic with haunting photos of deserted cities. Several other images captured protests around the world in a year marked by political unrest.