Cameras intended for use in R/C helicopter aerial photography have a wide range styles and technical specifications. Some are very expensive but can be used to take and store one hour of HD video. Others are much cheaper and intended for amateur use. They should therefore be selected with a particular type of work or objective in mind. However, the key feature of most cameras is that they are small and lightweight.
Cameras are designed so that they do not interfere with the radio control of the helicopter itself, and many are equipped with technology that enables recorded video and images to be transferred to a computer via a USB connector. Those that are intended for video recording as well as for capturing still images are equipped with large GB-capacity memory cards. Amateur cameras intended for recreational use can be purchased for less that £60 but high-end models intended for professional use may cost thousands of pounds.
Mounts and gimbals are almost as varied and complex as the cameras themselves! The picture below shows a basic underslung mount, but front mounts are also available. The choice of underslung or front mounting is determined by objectives and personal preference. Some pilots claim that front mounted cameras are more isolated from vibration, which is an important consideration, and that they allow more convenient shooting angles. The weight of a front-mounted camera can be offset by positioning batteries under the tail of the helicopter. Gimbals are controlled using a second radio system usually operated by the photographer, leaving the pilot to fly the helicopter. They are available as two-axis and three-axis models and provide excellent control and positioning for the camera. As always, quality costs money! The more expensive models are likely to give better stability, smooth operation and greater reliability.
Sophisticated flight stabilization systems are now available for remote controlled helicopters and, where used, provide for a much more stable photography platform. Autopilot systems capable of flying a helicopter without manual intervention are also available at a price. They rely upon programmed GPS waypoints and provide good stability and safe operation.