» Body and R/C Gear The body of a multicopter can be made of almost anything,
including wood, so the only “mysterious” thing
is the control board. The rest is common R/C
gear: a 4-channel transmitter and receiver,
and connectors to hook up your components.
fly your copter near people
or over them. A propeller
on a heavy multicopter,
lifting a heavy camera, will
work like a blender in your
subject’s face in the event
of a likely mishap. Also
note that in many areas it’s
illegal to fly model aircraft
outside restricted areas.
Video from a Multicopter
Filming from the sky is the most common
broken dream among multicopter users.
Unfortunately a lot of people are spending a
lot of money hoping to make great professional video from the air at a fraction of the cost
of a real helicopter. Many shops out there are
ready to sell this dream, which I think is unfair.
You should think twice. Here’s a test: take
your camera and put it on a broomstick. Hold
the other end of the broomstick. Now try to
get good footage out of that. While it may
give interesting new angles and be “arty,” in
general it’s going to look “filmed from the end
of a broomstick.” You’ll find it hard to get the
quality of shots you’re used to.
The same is the case with a multicopter.
You can find cool-looking videos made from
multicopters on You Tube, but they’re always
focused on the flight experience (“Look,
I’m flying!”), rather than a specific object
or person being photographed.
If you work hard with your equipment, you
can get cool shots, but they’ll be lucky shots,
unless your copter can transmit video back to
the ground (see Video Downlinking section).
If you get a picture of a house, it’ll be awkwardly framed. If you video anything other
than random treetops, the subject won’t be
well placed in the frame, and everything will
be moving about. It’s not easy.
with the equipment — not filmed at high
speed and slowed down for a smooth look,
and not edited in short clips, or stabilized in
I don’t recommend 2-axis gyro gimbals. In
my experience they introduce more shaking
than they do good, even the very expensive
ones. (And 3-axis gimbals introduce even
more.) Since multicopters are extremely
steady when it comes to holding direction,
I don’t think these are of any benefit.
Your best mount is something simple like a
flexible plastic tube or soft foam. Just accept
that the camera is not level at all times.
» Gimbals and Gyros You can purchase very
expensive camera mounts and gimbals with
gyroscopic stabilization. But before you do,
ask to see raw film of at least 1 minute made
» Cameras and Video Downlinking
You can get really cool videos and pictures
from multicopters if you’ve practiced flying,
and if you use the medium on its own terms:
accept the ever-moving picture, use a lightweight camera, and focus on action shots
where the camera is moving through the air.
The best videos I’ve seen are using extreme
wide angle, usually made with the GoPro camera brand (Figure K), which can also shoot
at 60 frames per second (fps), giving a slow-motion feeling. The lighter the camera, the
better the flight performance. Think 8oz and
Finally, your best tool is video feedback.
Actually seeing what you film, while you’re
doing it, is called first-person video (FPV).
There are many options for wireless video
downlinks, depending on the following
» Cost, weight, and power consumption.
» How large an antenna can you carry to
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