DSLR Helicopters!


So you’ve got a nice tripod, dolly, rail slider and even a crane for your DSLR video camera. Maybe it’s time to put that camera on a remote controlled helicopter, like Eric from helivideo.com.


How did you first get into aerial photography / video making?
I already had experience in RC helicopter and airplanes from about 10 years ago and was working as a semi-pro camera man and editor. I found myself catching up on the latest helicopter technology on the internet forums and saw people putting cameras on heli’s and was in.

Do you have some kind of remote viewing of the camera’s aerial perspective?
Yes, the heli is equipped with a 900 mhz transmitter to live view the video on the ground. (The transmitter takes the video signal from the video out of the camera, transmits it to our ground station and monitor. ) This is key to frame the shot, or track the action.

What range have you got?
The range if over clear ground is just over a mile.

What does it feel like, to be ‘feel’ like flying?
Even though I am not sitting in the heli while flying, sometimes you do really get into the flight and it feels like I am looking down at the ground.

You are standing on the top of a cliff or skyscraper. How far from the edge can you fly before you start feeling nervous?
This is a great question since perception of the heli is so critical. I have flown out over 200 meter cliffs with ocean below. You get a nervous feeling as soon as the heli goes out over the cliff since you know one mistake and you will never get you equipment back. How far out I can go depends on the wind, the visual sky or background behind the heli and just how dangerous I feel that day. On a shot like that, anything over 150 to 200 meters out is extreme.

How would you feel flying your copter around you, while in a boat mid-ocean, or hang-glider mid-air?
Flying from a boat would be great and I have been asked to do this before. It is kinda like the high cliff shot, because if any problem occurs there will not be time to safely land the heli and it will end up in the water.


Have you lost any cameras yet, or had any close shaves / dangerous moments?
In the last 6 months of working I have crashed the heli with my 5D attached twice. Lucky for me it was not over the cliff or the water and the camera / lens survived both accidents. Every time the heli leaves the ground it is a dangerous moment and too many close calls to mention, but that is what the clients want and I give it to them.

What have been some favourite scenes / events / locations to fly over?
Being a part of movies and tv shows are what I like best andmsome of the cool spots to fly have been downtown Toronto and also Big Sur California.

What do you like and dislike about the current range of DSLRs and their capacities?
I love the image quality that you get from these cameras and they are absolutely amazing for the price. I guess what gives me problems is how sensitive they are to vibration. Most people cannot shoot stable video while holding the camera and walking slowly. I put this camera on a whirling spinning helicopter which has to be perfect or the shot will be ruined by rolling shutter or other shaking.

What do you think about the iphone copters?
I think they’re awesome. There is so many very cool flight toys out now for $100 or less. It really allows anyone to get into flying for cheap.

Camera technology you’d be excited to see in 2011?
A 5D III and the possibility to output raw video – would be a game changer. The new 3D cameras are also very interesting and I am working on a new heli that will carry larger camera such as EX1, Panasonic 200, etc.  Thanks so much for letting me share some information with you. I hope to come fly my heli down under very soon! I can be reached at eric@helivideo.com


[[ Previous DLSR related posts: stabilisation and steadicams, an introduction to DSLRsmacro photography and video, time lapsing and a Canon7D review ]]

Autobot Roulette:


  1. vade says:

    Ive wanted to play with something like this for a long time, but the learning curve is so high. half of the issues with having a camera is being able to get good shots, which means movement and position. Fucking fun that must be.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by jean_poole, jean_poole. jean_poole said: How far would you fly your camera off a cliff? Recent skynoise interview about #DSLR #HELICOPTERS! http://bit.ly/aNfnTs […]

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.