When it comes to picking out a RC helicopter with a camera, you have a multitude of choices. It really comes down to what you are looking for from your camera equipped chopper.
As in just about every corner of the RC world, from cars and trucks to boats and planes, the selection of RC helicopters has exploded in recent years. That explosion has included many new options designed especially for those who want to have an “eye in the sky.”
While all these options is good, it also can make it difficult to figure out which one you want to choose. To make sure you are happy with your choice, you need get the heli that best fits your budget, needs, and skill level. If you succeed in matching up these key facets, you will have tons of fun with your new toy. If not, you may wind grounded and dissatisfied.
One point real quick, if you are just looking for a great RC chopper, but don’t really care about the camera, you might want to check out some of my favorite helis here. Another thing, some hobbyists will tell you, “don’t call them drones, their RC helicopters not drones,” but I don’t get too caught up in that.
How To Find The Right One
To make sure you are looking at the right options to start with, here are some things to think about. Are you looking for a cool toy for you or your kid, or are you looking for a professional level photography tool? Do you want a traditional looking helicopter or one of those cool looking quadcopters? Are you working with a fairly small budget or is money not really an issue?
This could feel a little overwhelming right now, but don’t worry. I am here to help. I’ve done a lot of research so that I can put together a list of some of the best RC helicopters with cameras.
I’ve broken the list up into different categories, that way you can hopefully find the one that best fits your needs. Check back often as I update and grow this list.
A Low Priced Entry-Level Option: Hubsan X4
If you’re just getting into the RC drone hobby and looking for a good beginner RC quadcopter, you need look no further than the Hubsan X4 camera drone. This lightweight craft offers impressive acrobatic abilities plus a camera in a tiny package and comes ready to fly.
The Hubsan X4 Camera drone comes with a controller, charger and rechargeable battery, a quartet of spare blades and a 2MP onboard camera for video and photography. A USB cable is also included. Construction is plastic over a metal frame, unlike the more fragile foam of larger lightweight drones which makes it stronger as well as smaller. The drone’s body features a dramatic red and black paint scheme and two color LED lighting for the rotors. It comes ready to fly and is palm-sized, measuring only 3.5”x3.5”x.98”. A six axis flight control system allows for advanced acrobatics.
Because of the drone’s diminutive size, it is suitable for indoor as well as outdoor flight. This size, coupled with the camera and maneuverability allow for applications beyond simple flying fun. This drone is great for amateur YouTube videos, science fair projects and numerous other applications as well as serving as an introduction to the RC drone hobby.
Everything has its strengths and weaknesses and this beginner RC quadcopter is no exception. It’s pretty cheap as camera drone prices go making it an affordable and ideal introduction to the more advanced and trickier features of more expensive quadcopters. While its important to keep it away from pets, people and furniture the unit’s small size allows for practical indoor as well as outdoor use. This same size allows for sturdier metal and plastic construction which means the body can take more unintentional punishment than other drones.
On the other and, the rotors are unshielded which means if you do fly into something there’s a risk of damaging them. The flight time is only seven minutes, half the time that can be expected from larger, more expensive drones and the camera has no onboard memory, requiring a micro sd card.
Seven minutes isn’t actually all that bad, though, given the drone’s size, which limits the size of the battery it can carry. Even if the rotor blades were shielded, they’d still be vulnerable to damage from above and below anyway, and the drone comes with a complete set of spares, and even entry level drones should be flown with care and caution, kept away from other people and pets.
All things considered, the Hubsan X4 camera drone is great for beginning hobbyists or anyone else who wants an affordable flying camera without a multiple hundred dollar investment. It’s a good choice by itself or as a stepping stone to more advanced quadcopters.
This is a video review of the X4:
A Larger Low Price Option: The UDI UFO
If you’ve seen toy drones (sometimes referred to as ‘quadcopters’) flying around or have been thinking about getting into the hobby yourself the Udi UFO camera drone may be just what you’re looking for. This entry level rc heli with camera is perfect for beginners and pros alike.
The Udi UFO camera drone features four independently controlled rotors that allow for an amazing level of maneuverability, lightweight construction to improve performance and battery life, an onboard HD camera capable of video and stills and LED lighting to shed some light on things if it’s too dark for the drone’s camera to photograph.
Included with the drone and its remote are four spare rotors, a charger and rechargeable battery, the drone’s controller and a USB cable. The unit measures 20”x20.5’x3’, making it potentially impractical for use in enclosed environments but the enclosed rotors help protect the drone from accidental collisions with furniture, people or pets.
As with everything, this particular drone has its pro’s and con’s. There’s quite a lot in the pro category, however. We’ll start off with value for the money. If you’re just getting into the hobby, this drone is a good place to start because you get good performance, a good camera and good maneuverability in a relatively inexpensive package that probably really should cost more than it does and the independently controlled rotors allow for exceptional acrobatics and stability.
Now for the cons. All drones of this type have certain shared drawbacks; they’re designed to hover, not travel at speed and they’re all so light that high wind is a problem and flight time is limited by operational battery life. The integrated HD camera is capable of delivering exceptional still shots and video and the drone is capable of flying high enough that as large as it is it’s difficult to see and control.
These drawbacks aren’t as bad as they sound, though. You aren’t going to find a drone that can remain stable in high wind and fly for hours without recharging. A direct video feed to your ipad might be nice but it would also increase the unit’s cost and being able to fly high enough that it’s hard to see the drone isn’t actually all that bad if you think about it. More of a good thing, really.
If you’re looking to get into the hobby or just want a flying camera you can play around with the Udi UFO camera drone is a great choice that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
This video is a fairly thorough review of the UDI UFO:
High Quality Option For Experts And Beginners Alike: The Blade 350 QX3
With quadcopters, conventional wisdom is that you should start off small, with cheaper, inexpensive drones until you’ve gotten used to the controls and understand the hobby you’re getting into. As a more exciting alternative, you can jump right in with something more substantial. If you take this route, perhaps the best RC Quadcopter for beginners is the Blade 350 QX3.
This drone comes GoPro ready, includes rechargeable battery and charger, transmitter and even 4 AA batteries. The Return Home function brings your drone back from wherever it’s gone should it venture out of sight and includes advanced SAFE (Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope) technology. You can set operational boundaries to keep it from wandering too far. There’s even a smart mode that’s perfect for beginning users who may be unfamiliar with drone controls. Outside of smart mode, more advanced operators can get some incredible acrobatic action out of this drone.
The base drone does not include a camera, but a bundle is available featuring the BLH 8110 camera which is capable of 16mp stills and 1080p video at 60fps.
In addition to hours of fun, the Blade 350 QX3 has numerous more practical applications including, when outfitted with a camera, artistic photography, videography and remote inspection. You can even use it to check up on whatever mischief your kids are getting up to in the backyard, if you have kids and a backyard. The possibilities are endless.
Like any other drone, this one has its pros and cons. One of the most notable positives is the previously mentioned smart mode which essentially turns what would otherwise be an intermediate quadcopter into an RC drone for beginners. This allows the novice to gain experience and confidence before graduating to the drone’s full range of capabilities. The return home feature is also a definite plus. Not only can this be activated at will but it automatically activates if your transmitter’s signal is interrupted which keeps your drone from getting lost. There’s also a free PC programming interface.
On the other hand, however, you’re looking at 15 minutes of flight time. This doesn’t seem like a lot but it’s actually quite reasonable for drone flight time. Another drawback is that unlike some designs the rotors are unshielded. This means you can potentially damage both the rotors and any person, pet or furniture that happens to get in the drone’s way. Safe mode will prevent you from flying the drone into yourself but nevertheless indoor use is not recommended.
All things considered, the Blade 350 QX3 is a great quadcopter for both the experienced hobbyist and the beginner who wants to jump right in and learn as he or she goes along.
Here is a cool video detailing the features of the QX3:
The Top of the Line: DJI Phantom 2
One of the most popular remote control drones in use today is the DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter. This highly successful addition to the DJI RC family has a lot to be said for it. Many consider it to be the best RC helicopter with camera on the market. The following will look at the pros and cons of the Phantom 2 and why you might want to consider purchasing your own.
Phantom 2 Pros
Great Batteries: One of the major advantages you’ll get by purchasing a Phantom 2 is that the batteries are much better than what you’ll find in less expensive drones. With the Phantom 2, you can expect up to 25 minutes of use before you have to land, which is twice that of many of the other drones.
Easily Replaced Batteries: Thanks to the fact that it is easy to take out the batteries and replace them (it only takes seconds), you can keep flying your Phantom 2 until you run out of batteries.
Easy Portability: The Phantom 2 is only a foot long and weighs just over 2 pounds. This means that it’s easy to transport to virtually any launch site.
Lots of Available Add-Ons: One of the great things about the Phantom 2 is that there are a host of add-ons you can install on your unit that will expand its capabilities. This can be anything from gimbles and cameras to first-person viewing. Perhaps the most popular add on for the Phantom 2 is the GoPro Hero 3 camera.
Built-In Safety Features: The Phantom 2 has a number of useful safety features that can help you protect your new investment. For instance, it has a “return to home” function that will automatically take control and return the drone to the launch site if the drone loses connection with your remote. You can activate this function manually if you lose sight of the drone and want it to return quickly.
Phantom 2 Cons
Not Novice Friendly: If you’re new to the world of remote control drones, you might not want to make the Phantom 2 your first drone purchase. The Phantom 2 is an expensive, high-end quadcopter that you wouldn’t want to smash into a building. While this drone does come with excellent stabilizing technology and other handy features to keep it out of trouble (such as the “return to home” function mentioned above), you might want to at least get lessons from an experienced pilot before you try it on your own.
To sum up, the positive aspects of the Phantom 2 significantly outweigh out any possible negatives. Even the cost and complexity of the unit are less significant if you gain experience with a less-expensive drone first. The Phantom 2 is a powerful and fun flying machine that will let you get some astonishing footage and pictures.
Here is a video detailing what all the Phantom is capable of: