Aerial Images – Drone, Chopper or Microlight?

Aerial Drone with Camera

Aerial photography and videography adds an important element to many of our assignments. We at OV&P Professional Digital Imaging use three different platforms for our aerial work, namely helicopters, microlights and unmanned drones. The distinct differences between the platforms are cost, usage and practicality. My favourite platform is the unmanned drone because of its relatively small size that facilitates access to unusual and difficult locations. It is also the least expensive of the available options, while providing great value. Above and below are images of two types of drones that we typically use.

Aerial drone with video camera

All three platforms require a skilled pilot and cameraman, and the working relationship between the two is of paramount importance in achieving a quality image or video clip. I am privileged to work with the top unmanned drone pilots in the industry, and that makes my job as the cameraman a lot easier as the accurate positioning and movement of the drone is critical to my being able to compose and shoot the required imagery – such as the stunning landscape art created by Iwan Roux of Rekopane Landscapes that is featured below.


Essentially, the pilot has to listen to and anticipate the cameraman’s instructions to achieve a smooth, linear path when moving or turning the drone. The cameraman has a remote monitor that allows him to see precisely what the image will look like and to manipulate the camera position using a remote joystick system for positioning and taking the shot. The camera is mounted in a hi-tech gimbal that allows 3D movement and helps reduce vibration, thus providing a smooth platform to shoot from, so as to capture sharp images like this one taken in Fourways, Johannesburg.

Aerial photo in Fourways, Johannesburg

Helicopters and microlights are alternative options when large distances need to be traversed outside the range of an unmanned drone, but the same collaborative relationship is as important between the pilot and cameraman to achieve the best results possible. The other clear difference is that choppers cost an arm and a leg to charter, hence if the budget is limited, the less expensive option is to use a microlight. However, this is the most dangerous and more difficult option for achieving best results due to the lack of manoeuvrability and access to equipment.

In a nutshell, aerial photography and video is a very important element to any photographic or video portfolio that we at OV&P provide to our esteemed clients, providing a differentiator that adds value, improves profitability and brand awareness, and contributes to a culture of excellence. Please contact us if you have any questions in this regard or if you’d like to book an aerial shoot. We’d love to help.