The battle for video aerial footage superiority – Drones are the new Helicopters

Aerial footage has long been the preserve of companies with big budgets that can afford to hire a helicopter. Advances in drone technology means it is now possible for more brands and businesses to afford aerial footage. The helicopter has long been one of the only feasible ways for movie makers to film flight footage. Unmanned aerial vehicles can now achieve almost all of the same results at a fraction of the cost.

What Are The Advantages of Drones?

Drones are a more affordable alternative to helicopters for businesses and brands that might otherwise be priced out of the market. They open up a range of possibilities for those with a more limited budget to acquire aerial imagery.

  • Reduced set up time – A drone can be checked, set up and launched within a short period of time. Set-up time will vary between the size of the drone and whether an external camera is being fitted.
  • Price – Hiring a helicopter includes the cost of fuel, a pilot and rigged camera gear – all rolled up into an hourly rate of flying. Filming with a drone can work out almost 80% cheaper than using a helicopter.
  • Fuel – A drone’s lithium battery costs significantly less for a flight than the equivalent amount of aviation fuel.
  • Flexibility – drones are not restricted to launching from airfields. Helicopters have to fly from their base to the filming location, adding to the total cost. A drone can simply be packed up and transported by road or sea.

Permission To Fly

The playing field has been levelled in recent years. Drone operators can now apply for permission from Air Traffic Control to fly in restricted areas. Previously this was only available to helicopters. Drones can also operate across borders: If a company would  like to acquire aerial footage abroad, it will have to source a local helicopter operator. Having obtained the relevant permissions, a drone pilot can simply pack a drone in a protective case and take it to the location of their choice.

Is There Still A Place For Helicopters?

Of course, there is still a place for helicopters in aerial filming. They can fly further, faster and longer than drones. A helicopter can also carry a heavier payload and allows for a camera operator to physically take part in filming.

On the other hand, drones can access some places that helicopters can’t. Unmanned vehicles can fly close to the ground and near to buildings. A helicopter could not access these locations for practical or safety reasons.

The biggest benefit of filming with a drone instead of a helicopter is that smaller businesses and brands with limited budgets can now compete in a space which was previously restricted only to the businesses with the deepest pockets.

Many helicopter companies offering aerial filming and photography will still claim air superiority. Others suggest the days of using a helicopter are numbered. One thing is certain: the battle for air supremacy is going to become a lot more competitive as drone technology continues to advance.

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