For Modellers

Having played around with models, cameras and electronics for years it was inevitable that sooner or later I would combine everything. These few pages are a distillation of the results. Many model flyers have experimented successfully; I make no claims for originality or a better system. However, the methods applied here have worked well for me, producing good photos in which the limiting factor has been the camera rather than the rest of the set-up. Not all are successful of course, but the percentage of shots that I am happy with has been more than adequate for me. Cost has been low as I have generally used old, retired cameras.

Aiming the shot is easy and reliable and the quality using 2Mp cameras is good enough for general-interest photography. Better gear might show up issues of sharpness
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Dave B's Aerial Photography Site
... and Non-Modellers

The idea behind this site was to pass on the experience I have gained to other modellers, but I realise that the topic may have a wider appeal to those of a non-modelling persuasion. For the benefit of those readers I would add the following:

I am a modeller first, photographer second, and this is essentially a modelling website. I have used model aircraft of a standard type as a platform for the photography. There are other ways to achieve the same ends, photographically.

Kite aerial photography (KAPing) has a big following and has both pros and cons compared to using RC aircraft. The principle plus is not having to learn to fly, I'd imagine. KAPing is not something I have tried but the photos seem pretty good.

Another route for professional photographers or those with deep pockets is the use of multi-engined hovering drones. There are links to several companies offering aerial survey work on the Links page. These devices use three or four horizontally mounted propellers to create a flying bedstead type of chassis. They stay airborn by brute downthrust, having no wings. They are not helicopters, though. Most have GPS systems so can sit in the desired position irrespective of wind and turbulence, and I suspect they are not so much flown as commanded.

but these are fixable with more attention to detail. It really isn't rocket science. I was sufficiently pleased with the initial results to carry on and build a second model incorporating the lessons learned, not so much from a photographic standpoint as a modelling one.

Most of the questions that modellers ask are along the lines of how do you aim, are there issues with camera-shake, what is the best method of shutter-release, can you operate the camera directly or do you need a servo, and so on.

Hopefully I can answer most of those questions and thus armed, you may feel more confident of success without having to experiment from scatch.

Have a shufty at the pics then see what you think.

Balloons are also an option, one with the potential of going right to the edge of space.

Staying with models, or perhaps I should call them unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the size and complexity can range from the banal to the sublime. From a simple model aircraft with a cheap camera, flown by a hobbiest like myself and costing not much over £100 to seriously large minature helicoptors (~ 8ft rotor diameter) powered by large IC engines, equiped with gyroscopically stabilised camera platforms and requiring two-man crews, one to fly it and the other to operate the camera. Such equipment is a major investment only companies are likely to make.

UAVs like these are used by aerial survey companies because they are cheap compared to the cost of operating full-size helicoptors (note I did not say real ones, the UAV described above is as real as they come). There are other advantages too - less noise, less regulation and the ability to operate out of tiny spaces such as the customer's back garden. They are suitable for all sorts of aerial survey work and are used by the police, fire service and numerous private companies.

And now, back to modellers' models for aerial photography. Onwards and upwards...
Dave Blandford