RC aerial photography or radio controlled aerial photography is a relatively new method of obtaining aerial photos and video using radio controlled airplanes, helicopters, and multirotors.
Before the ability to shoot photos and video from these unmanned aircraft existed it was common practice to use a full size manned helicopter or airplane. As you can imagine renting an airplane or helicopter can be quite expensive. As much as $1,000 per hour in fact. Also, full scale aircraft do not typically fly lower than 500ʼ for safety reasons. Many times aerial photos look best when taken from less than 500ʼ. Itʼs clear that RC aerial photography begins to look like a viable alternative to many aerial photo and video needs.
It seems to have begun in the early 2000ʼs when digital cameras started becoming more popular. Digital cameras have many obvious advantages over film cameras but a feature most of them have that really helped launch aerial photography from radio controlled aircraft was their real time video output. This allows the pilot of the rc aerial photography aircraft to see in real time what the camera is “seeing” by way of an inexpensive microwave video downlink. The downlink sends the cameraʼs video output signal to the ground where it is displayed on an LCD monitor. Being able to see the camera output in real time allows the pilot and/or camera operator to compose the shot and make adjustments to aperture, shutter speed, zoom, shutter trigger etc.
Typically the camera is mounted inside a remotely controllable camera gimbal. The camera gimbals can be one, two or three axis corresponding to pan, tilt, and roll axis. Small servo motors actuated by the pilot allow the camera angle to be accurately adjusted. When the angle is composed properly the pilot can trigger the shutter on the camera and acquire a photo. The same process is used when shooting rc aerial video.
Today there are literally hundreds of digital camera and rc aircraft options. Smaller cameras like the GoPro can be carried by a small inexpensive foam RC airplane. Large cameras like Canon and Nikon DSLRs, Red Epic, Panasonic AF100, Canon C300, and similar can be carried aloft by much larger aircraft, typically rc helicopters.
RC aerial photography is a growing hobby as well as business opportunity. More and more rc hobbyists are turning what has been a hobby for them into a source of income by supplying aerial photos and video to those who need them. Realtors, engineers, land developers, marketing companies, video production companies and more are in need of this fascinating method of obtaining aerial photos and video.