Aerial Camera Platforms Becoming More Mainstream As They Get Affordable

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

If you’re reading this blog here on Doddle, then odds are you’re a filmmaker that’s obsessed with technology and how it can be used to get unique and interesting shots for your  project.  And everything from the Steadicam to the computer to the DSLR has been used to revolutionize our art and make for stunning images.  And a minicopter drone platform is no different, especially when it can take advantage a DSLR that shoots high def video.

(Firefly) was shot with hacked GH2, lens Tokina 11-16 f2.8, sigma 30mm f1.4 and amazing hexacopter from using Brutus camera head! – director Jan Minol

I have to say, that when I first saw that these helicopter drones had gone commercial, I immediately saw the possibilities for filmmaking.  But I wondered just how stable they would be considering how maneuverable they are.    But if you look at the short film below, called FireFly, the outcome is amazing.  Not only does it allow for a bird’s eye view of a scene, but the platform can be used to follow a subject of the scene in areas where no other camera platform is possible or practical.

The platform used came from a Czech company called JamCopters.  The copter, known as a Hexacopter, mounted a hacked Panasonic GH2 to it thanks to a special mounting head known as the Brutus, which is built out of light carbon fiber and uses eight radial bearings to keep the camera stable in the air.  The result is a stable platform that provides the best of the worlds of a dolly, jib, slider, steadicam and crane.  It’s truly frees the camera from any platform designed to nullify motion that’s held by the camera operator.

And when you consider the ability to use hidef cameras like the 4k capable GoPro Hero 3, which weighs less than a 3 ounces and has a WiFi capability for framing and following, and you can really see the benefits even more.  It opens possibilities for both indoor and outdoor shooting, over and through obstacles, and viewpoints that a steadicam operator would only dream of being able to get.

Course the real key is having a practiced hand at the till.  And I have a hunch that it helps to have the camera/copter operator be the builder and consultant on the copter platform because it certainly requires a steady hand and odds are, a first person point of view.   Plus a well blocked out game plan and just as much rehearsal for the camera/copter operator as the actors being imaged.  But imagine tossing in a motion control, computer aspect, where you reset and the copter goes back to position one and flies the exact flight path from take after take.  All thanks to an iPhone app which is also mounted as a counter weight on the platform.  It’s doable.

And it’s democratizing, since you can get an aerial copter for under $200.  And that’s the reason why I love writing about both filmmaking and technology.  It opens up opportunities to bring our imagination to reality, art to life, and with it, anyone with a vision can share it.

Hat Tip – NFS

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.


  1. James DeRuvo says:

    Amazon has several different models including a dedicated GoPro model for $299. Thanks for reading!

  2. Ryan says:

    Where are these $200 Aerial camera helicopters you speak of? Every where I have looked the prices are pretty consistent with JamCopters prices, $2,500 – $3,000.

    I love the look of these new platforms though and definitely am looking forward to having one myself one day.

    Thanks for a great post.