A few days ago a loyal reader sent me a message inquiring about RC helicopters with camera, we had a long conversation about them and I decided to create a blog post with this information because I think we nailed great points that must be considered when picking the best remote control helicopter with camera.
The first thing I want to clarify is that given the stability that quadcopters offer while flying, these have become the leading instrument in aerial photography. Quadcopters are, by design, less stable than RC helicopters, but given the advanced control systems that they have, they are capable of offering a more stable flight (and easy to operate platform) than RC helicopters, and for this reason, more and more people are shooting amazing video and photography with the so called, drones. This is why many of my recommendations here will include quadcopters.
What to look for when purchasing an RC helicopter or quadcopter with camera?
I’m assuming you want to purchase a remote control device with camera because you want to capture or live-stream video, thus, I’m doing this analysis taking those things into consideration. For the final part of this post, I will offer you a few options of the RC helicopters and quads that I consider to be the best right, now, some will have features that others don’t, and this means that the range in price will be long. Depending on what you want to have, you will need a bigger or lower budget for each one of these gadgets, so take that into consideration when deciding to purchase one device or another.
After doing an extensive research on this field, and consulting with some experts in both photography and RC flying devices, these are the things that these experts recommend to look for when getting an RC helicopter with camera. In summary, it’s all about the quality of the footage, if you don’t have that, then nothing else matters. Thus, in order to ensure the quality of your video or photo, these are the things you want to look at.
- Safety and landing capabilities
- Easiness to operate and Stability
- Type of camera
- Flight time
- Construction and Durability
- Operational range and ceiling
Safety goes first!
One thing that you must understand is that these devices are really fun and exciting, but the main reason of this is also something to be careful with: these devices can fly at relatively high speeds. The moving parts of RC helicopters and quadcopters, the propellers, are also something to always keep an eye on. This is why some of the best manufacturers of these gadgets are now including safety guards that you can use to protect the propellers, these will not affect functionality and the people around them are safer.
Something else that you want to consider is the possibility of a sudden loss of control, leading to an imminent crash. Even when this is not typical, the best RC helicopters with camera (mostly quadcopters) now include a safe-landing feature in case the signal from the transmitter is lost or the battery goes empty. This can help to protect not only the people around the gadget but also the camera that’s attached to it.
Safety is the first thing to check when you get any RC flying device, and even if you’re an expert pilot, it’s really important to consider that you may be safe because your experience and piloting skills, but this is the same as driving a car, the people around you also count.
How are your RC piloting skills these days? – The easier to fly the more stable!
Once you make sure that everything around you (including yourself) is safe, then it’s time to think about everything that will impact the quality of your footage. Aside from the camera type, nothing will have more impact than the flight stability.
One of the most rewarding and fun things about RC helicopters and drones is to be able to pilot more complex (with more channels) devices while at the same time ensuring the stability of the ship because of your skills. This may not be what you’re looking for when trying to film something, because your main interest is not the difficulty to fly the aircraft but the stability of the camera so that this can record great quality images.
Having said this, the ideal RC helicopter with camera would be that which you don’t need to worry about flight stability and at the same time allows you to focus on the shots you want to take. Right now I can recommend you 2 great gadgets for this: AirDog and the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+. These are the top of the edge right now in terms of stability, easiness to fly, and quality of the video, but I’ll give you some other choices that can deliver great results at lower prices.
In short, whenever you get your RC flying device with camera, look at how stable this is, you’ll thank me for this later.
Is this an HD camera or not?
Now we’re getting into the specifics of the video. In the past, picking the right type of camera was a big concern because depending on the type and design of the camera the RC helicopter or drone was designed. However, miniaturization of electronics is making possible a lot of things, and since these days you can have an HD camera in a cell phone, is not much harder to get it into a small presentation that’s easy and safe to carry.
The best option for a camera that’ll be mounted on an RC helicopter or drone is a GoPro Hero4, this is by far the best selling camera for many and great reasons. It’s not that expensive and the design is such that it can resist hard weather conditions and still give you a full HD footage.
There are other alternatives which you can use to shot great video, but if you’re thinking in investing on an RC flying device with a camera on it, then you should prepare a good budget for this. In the end you’ll be thankful that you did this, because the quality of your video will be the result of it.
How long can your RC helicopter with camera be in the air?
You must know that most RC helicopters and drones can only fly a short period of time, some less than 10 minutes. Then, they need a long recharge time, close to an hour. This happens because of the battery type they have, and even when this might seem crazy, that’s the best we have right now. The speed of flight and the weight they carry are deterministic factors to the time the battery holds its charge. Thus, if you think in lifting a camera with your RC helicopter or drone is very important to consider that your battery may run empty faster (not to mention that depending on the weight the motors may be able to lift it or not).
This is why these days more companies are launching new designs of RC helicopters or quadcopters with built-in cameras, thus, the design of both the aircraft and the battery is better.
With these new designs we are getting extended flight times, but the technology to create batteries is still such that we need almost an hour for every 10 minutes of flight, and this still depends on the speed of flight.
Even when this is not the best news, it should not discourage you from considering an RC helicopter or quadcopter that’s designed to carry a camera or has one inside of it, to do aerial photography. The other alternative is to get a full size helicopter and try to film from there, and this is much more expensive.
Don’t worry about this too much, as always, I’ve done my homework so that you have the information you need right at hand, and I’ll make sure to recommend you the very best models with the most flight time, so keep reading.
Is your remote control helicopter with camera durable and built to last?
This is one of those things you can’t let go. The construction of your RC heli must be solid. The last thing you want is to land your quad or heli and discover that the camera fell who knows where. Something you have to keep in mind is that most RC flying gadgets are prone to crashes, and this is why you need to make sure that your device is not cheap and low quality.
Some of the most durable and amazing RC helis that I’ve tried combine metal with hard and durable plastic, this way you have a resistant but light-weight aircraft that can be used for flight. Having said this, I can’t tell you that the best design is that which is all metal, all plastic, or a combination of both, but I can tell you that you want to make sure that the construction is solid, and that you want to check the availability of spare parts before you make any purchase. I’ve spoken about spare parts a few times before and you can find great information about them here and here.
Operational range and ceiling
Ok, you have everything in place and secured to make sure your video is the highest quality possible, and you’ve followed every point I’ve mentioned on this post so far, but, there is one more check you have to make before taking off, you have to know how far and how high your RC helicopter can fly without losing control. This would ruin all the fun, because if you quad or helicopter goes too far from you, all your hard work could be lost forever.
This is why some of the best designs of RC aviation gadgets with cameras, are being released with an app, and among the many things you can do with it, there is the possibility to know the last position of your gadget so you can find it easy. Another great thing that top designers are doing these days is to include different modes of use so that you can program your drone to either land at where it is once it loses contact with the transmitter, or to get back to the place where they took off. This allows you to know that your heli will be safe and waiting for you at a specific point, rachable of course via a GPS system.
Here are some of the best RC helicopters with camera that you can find online, quads are included here
By now you probably wonder which my top pics in terms of RC helicopters with camera are, and here I want to present you the very best choices I’ve seen. This list includes both RC helicopters and quads, this because of the reasons I already explained before.
Let me present you my top pics for RC helis and quads with camera.
DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ (HD Video Camera)
DJI is one of the companies developing top products for the aerial photography industry. Their most famous model is the Phantom, and right now we can get the v3.0 of this quadcopter. It is called DJI Phantom 2 Vision+, and it comes with its own HD camera so that you can capture full HD video of 1080p30 & 720p with it.
Phantom models comply with everything I mentioned on this article and more, since they are manufactured considering everything a professional of the aerial photography industry would need.
The drone has safety features in both hardware and software. You can install the prop guards (sold separately) to make it even safer, and if the quad goes too far and loses communication with the transmitter, the Phantom 2 Vision+ will return to the point it took off and land safely.
As far as the easiness to operate this model, I have to say that the DJI engineers did everything to make this a super stable and easy to fly quadcopter so that you can focus on shooting amazing footage. Its construction is solid and durable, and this model was designed so that you can get up to 25 minutes of flight time (120 minutes to fully recharge the battery). In an open area, you have an operational range of up to 800 meters (2624 ft.) and with the range extender you can get from 500 to 700 more meters (1640 to 2296 ft.).
As impressive as it is, this quad can be owned by anyone, however, you’ll have to pay more than $1200 USD to have it, and if this guy is your choice, make sure you have the right budget for it.
Syma X5C 4 Channel 2.4GHz RC Explorers Quad Copter w/ Camera
I’m a fan of Syma, this company focuses on giving us the top things that are happening right now at very good prices. In this case they have built a quadcopter that is able to capture HD video in a safe way for less than 80 USD.
The Syma X5C is so popular that as the time this post is being written, it is the #1 best seller on Amazon for its category.
The flight time you get with this device is of about 7 minutes, and you’ll have to wait for another 100 minutes to fully charge its battery.
The fact that this is a quadcopter makes it easy to operate and stable. This model is built to last, and the construction includes the prop guards to make it safer when flying. This model doesn’t have a back to home feature in case it loses communication with the transmitter, and you can only operate it to about 30 meters (98 feet) from you. However, given its price, I think it’s still worthy of appearing on this list, not to mention that Syma is a company that provides high quality devices at very affordable prices.
AirDog – Auto – follow drone for GoPro Camera
Aerial photography is gaining popularity among the extreme sports lovers. Today is very common wanting to film video of amazing aerobatics with bikes, surf boards, and any other activity. I’m not going to lie to you. I got pretty excited the first time I knew about this gadget. I think it’s the perfect tool for those who love to film their most amazing adventures and achievements.
AirDog is the easiest to operate drone since you don’t need any RC piloting skills. The drone flies on its own and the only thing you have to do is to set the auto-follow feature and the distance you want it to be away from you, and that’s it. Now is just a matter of having fun and AirDog will take care of the rest.
This quad is really safe and built to last. There are zero complications to operate it since its programming takes care of that. The flight is pretty stable and the video comes clean and in full HD, since it is captured using a GoPro camera (sold separately).
The operational ceiling of this device is of 4,300 meters (14,000 feet above the sea level), and the distance at which you can operate it is of 300 meters (1000 feet).
The flight time you get with AirDog is of 10 – 20 minutes, depending on the speedd at which it operates, and the battery is fully charged after 1 hour of being plugged. If for any reason you don’t notice the battery is running empty and you’re still doing your thing, AirDog will either (this depends on your preference and can be programmed by the user in an easy way) go back to the place where it took off or land where it is so that you don’t have to worry about that. The landing will be safe and you’ll be able to find it using the GPS system that reports to the app you can install on your smart phone or mobile device.
The one thing you have to know about AirDog is that it’s not yet released for mass production, but you can pre-order it by visiting the website and be one of the first happy owners of this. 1st batch is sold out, but 2nd batch is open and you can expect to receive it for Q2 of 2015. As of this writing the price is of $1,295 USD and the shipping is free.
Parrot AR. Drone 2.0 Power Edition
Parrot was one of the 1st companies in releasing these amazing drones equipped with a built-in HD camera. Right now they are developing other similar drones, but the most famous and also the one that keeps being my favorite is the AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition.
This is a mid-range priced gadget, but it’s still pretty durable and allows you to live-stream and capture HD video. The drone comes with 2 HD (high density) batteries that can give you up to 36 minutes of flight time, and it also has a set of guards you can install on it to make it safer.
Something interesting about this gadget is that it is controlled by a mobile device such as a smart phone or a tablet. You can download the free app from the App Store or Google Play. This quad is easy to operate and it is being cataloged as a toy, this because every person can fly it using the autopilot feature, which allows you to fly like a pro.
The Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition is very tough, but also it is reparable. The construction is durable. The operational range is of up to 50 meters (165 feet), so you can actually explore a wide area with it.
UDI U13A 3 Channel 2.4GHz Metal RC Helicopter w/ video camera
This is another great option for the lovers of RC helicopters with camera. The UDI U13A is very affordable since it’s less than $100 USD and you can still use it to take photos and video. This heli is designed to be stable in order to help you get amazing footage, and it’s really easy to control, especially when hovering.
This is a light-weight RC helicopter that is built to last, made of a metal alloy frame and elastic blades to endure crashing. Being a stable helicopter makes it safe to use, and even when it doesn’t have any auto-follow or auto-landing features embedded in it, you still can get an amazing experience with this toy.
This is a 3 channel helicopter, which means is really easy to fly, it’s made so that even the beginner pilot can have a blast of fun with it. The operational range of this heli is of 152 meters (500 feet).
Now it is your turn – Pick the one you like the most!
Here I presented you with the things you have to check when picking the best RC helicopter with camera for you. Notice that I also included quadcopters on this list because of their super stable flight and ability to carry objects, such as cameras. The next step is to pick the one that you like the most and let us know your experience with it.
If you happen to have any experience with these gadgets share it with us, join to the conversation and leave a comment. Tell me, is there something I’m missing on this list? If that’s the case, let us know! Don’t forget to push the social buttons on this page to share this with your friends.