Introduction to Radio Controlled Helicopter Aerial Photography

Photographer Rigs A Canon 7D to An RC Helicopter I am very excited to introduce the following guest post on Aerial Photography Introduction by Eric – crashing is not an option – Austin.

Yea, it is that dude that rigged a Canon 7D to a custom RC Heli whom we interviewd a little while ago.

What is aerial photography?

Aerial photography originated over 100 years ago, soon after man first took flight. It is the method in which pictures or video are captured from a perspective not seen at ground level. From satellites high above the earth to an RC plane or helicopter, aerial photography can be an awesome DIY project!

Why is AP so fun and rewarding?

That is simple, because our eyes do not get to view much over 6′ 99% of the time. A great photo from the ground is always just that, a great photo. But even a not so good photo from 100′ up looks awesome!!

First Steps – How To Choose a Helicopter?

These days, helicopters come in all sizes… from a $20 Air Hawg to $2000 high-end models. So if you are looking to get into AP, the choices can be quite confusing.

Helicopters are separated by class, and the class is determined by main rotor size. The smallest rotor measures about 250 mm up to the largest at 830 mm.

To select the right helicopter for AP you need to consider a few things: Can the helicopter lift the camera you have chosen?H ow stable will it be with the added weight? Can you afford the Helicopter and the maintenance expenses.

When choosing a helicopter for AP, remember that performance and picture quality improve with size. Larger helicopters have greater stability, are easier to see and control, and handle wind much better. For most point and shoot cameras, helicopters in the 450 to 600 mm range will work just fine.

So What Are The Trade Offs?

While larger helicopters are much better overall, they can cost as much as 10 times the smaller ones to crash. A typical crash on a 450-size helicopter will cost between $30-50 to replace broken or bent parts. However, a set of 800 mm blades on a large helicopter can cost $250.00. For this reason, most people start out with small, cheap helicopters and work their way up as their skills improve.

Introduction to Radio Controlled Helicopter Aerial Photography

How Much Does It Cost To Get Started In AP?

Here are the two sides of the spectrum, and of course, there’s all the range in between.

Simple: An EFlite Blade 400 helicopter with Contour HD video camera ready-to-shoot 1080P will cost about $700.00.

Simply insane: A custom 720 mm Broadcast TV and Cinema rig helicopter with Canon 5D camera will cost $25,000.

If you are just checking out RC helicopters as an occasional hobbyist, the simple set-up should work fine. However, if you have the passion, drive, and dedication to learn this unique hobby and want to take pictures or video with your helicopter, I would recommend investing in a larger model. You will not only learn to fly with it, but learn about the helicopter inside and out. These skills are mandatory for taking good pictures and video. Once you are a confident pilot, you can attach a camera and begin experimenting with aerial photography.

Final Thoughts

Think: Not sure if RC helicopters are right for you?

Answer these simple questions: Was I better than average at most video games? Can I reach up and catch a ball in the air without really looking at it? Have others told me that I have excellent eye-hand coordination?

If you answered yes to these questions, RC helicopters might just be the right hobby for you!

Fact: Learning to fly an RC helicopter is only half the work. You must also become a good helicopter mechanic to be a successful pilot!

Do: Seek out your local RC club. Meet some RC helicopter pilots. A new friend that can help you along is invaluable!!

After all you dont want to drop your heli over Lake Tahoe (yup, that small dot at the upper right corner)

Introduction to Radio Controlled Helicopter Aerial Photography

Getting excited about AP? Great! Next post, I will tell you more about it, including how to select a helicopter and tips on building it for AP. You never know, you might be asked to fly inside a shopping mall full of people, too!!

About the Author: Eric Austin, an expert at both flying remote controlled aircraft and video production, offers tips for getting started. Based in Austin, Texas, Eric and his crew at Heli Video Productions provide high-end aerial shots for TV, movies, and the Web using specially designed RC helicopters. 

  • Sajj

    Very interesting and I am very interested. Any ideas on ways to make money with RC aerials? Someone told me today that he uses his to photograph welding done high up on construction sites…saves him the time, energy, and hazard of having to go up there himself. So, any thoughts on some very practical applications with regard to generating income?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tashi.namgyal.583 Tashi Namgyal

    Hi to all ….
    I own a Media Production Service Company,…. In Himalaya region.. where the mountains are so high…. the winds are sooo huge… the sun ray are so strong … the temperature are so low(-35 in winter and summer + 7) but I am looking for RC Heli… to mount 5 D II and other…can any body help out the best and …. thanksss