Small helicopters such as the piston-motored Robinson R-22, or Schweizer 300, are relatively inexpensive to operate.They
are however much slower than say a single-turbine Bell Jet Ranger, or Eurocopter. In addition, the small Heli's are quite
cramped, have significant weight limits,range, and can not carry any additional passengersrs.
In order to maximize our ability to get just the right shots, we usually have the side-door of the helicopter removed prior to
flight. We do this to facilitate getting just the right angle for a shot, without the limitations caused by trying to use
portholes or small opening windows in the aircraft. The entire door being removed however makes for a very loud and
turbulent environment to photograph in. Communications are difficult, so careful pre-flight planning with our pilot, is an
essential part of minimizing airtime (and thus cost) by keeping to minimum difficult or unnecessary in-flight communications.
In addition, we use image-stabilized lenses as well as custom gyroscopes to eliminate camera shake caused by the
open-door turbulence, and the inherit vibrations of most helicopters (especially the smaller piston engined versions).
Light Fixed-wing Aircraft:
Fixed-wing aircraft like the Cessna 172 (and alike top-wing aircraft) cost significantly less per hour to operate than a
helicopter, but have limitations (such as restrictions on how low they can fly over populated areas, and how close they can
be to an areas highest building etc.) In addition, as they can't simply "hover", getting the perfect shot can be a little more
challenging. They are however excellent when capturing entire communities, large industrial facilities, parks, or say ranch
What does this all mean in practical terms? Time is money, as are the requirements for the assignment itself. We carefully
weigh pros and cons of all available aircraft for each aerial assignment The expense for the use of any aircraft for aerial
photography is based on actual airtime. Most aircraft have a 1 hour minimum charge, and thereafter usually charge for each
additional 10 or 15 minute segment. The charge is based on base-to-base. In essence from take-off, to landing including
in-air transit time to get to the actual site to be photographed. Here is where speed can have a bearing on the actual flight
expense. There may also be a fuel surcharge in some locations or instances. Depending on location, typically a small
helicopter will cost $450-$600/hour, while the larger turbine models run $800-$1,000/hour. Fixed-wing airplanes usually
start-out at $350/hour.
At times we have been able to lower the client expense by combining two aerial shoot assignments in close proximity to
each other during "the same flight". This does however require that the client has great flexibility in the scheduling of the
Please note that weather has a direct impact on when a aerial photography assignment can and should take place.
Inclement weather, and or strong winds (causing dust in the atmosphere) will reduce visibility and clarity thus having a
negative impact on the images. It is quite common that scheduled aerial assignment need to be postponed or re-scheduled
because of these factors. Moreover, it is always the pilot's call as to whether to cancel a scheduled flight due to weather, or