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The AR Parrot UAV Can Carry A Go Pro Video Camera

Published: 03/10/2011
By: larry

Ryan Ward was asking me the other day about the possibility of the AR Parrot Drone ($299) carrying a more sophisticated camera than the built-in one. I was skeptical because the AR Parrot people claim that "The AR.Drone has not been designed to lift or carry loads, however light they might be. Adding weight would make the device unstable, which could cause crashes or shorten the life of the motors".

Then Ryan found a company that is selling a $79 under mount that allows you to mount a Go Pro video camera under the AR Parrot and has video on the site showing results. By the date on the video it appears this mount is only about a month old.  While the Parrot occasionally rocks back a forth a bit there a quite long periods where the camera is held so stable the video looks like a still. Also notice in the video how the pilot flies the parrot into the woods along side the road between trees and then is able to easily back out and come back to the road. Very impressive for a $299 device being flown with a smart phone!

I have to admit this was a real surprise  for me because if this works as well as it look like it does. It's a potential game changer for UAV real estate photography and videography for the following reasons:

  1. Price: (UAV: $299 + Mount: $79 + Go Pro: $259) = ~$650 compared to ~$15,000 to $30,000 for a helicopter that could carry a full size DSLR. You could spend $650 on a 20' or 30' pole if you weren't careful.
  2. Ease of flying: You don't have to be a helicopter jockey to fly this thing like many most the the bigger R/C helicopters.
  3. Weight: Although I'm no expert, on this it seems like a AR Parrot packing a  5.9 oz Go Pro would be a lot less dangerous if you screwed up some how than a larger helicopter packing a 5 or 6 pounds of a full DSLR and lens.

Of course the quality of the AR Parrot carrying a Go Pro is not going to compete with the work that Rusty Freeman can do with his $30,000 chopper carrying a Canon 7D.

The bad news: As others have pointed out in previous posts about the AR Parrot, in some countries/states there maybe laws now or in the future that restrict UAV usage. It appears to me that currently in the US, any vehicle operating in US airspace currently requires a Certificate Of Airworthiness COA. For more details check this reference. According to the FAA website, the US FAA plans to publish new rules for what they call UAS's (unmanned aerial systems) sometime in 2011.

16 comments on “The AR Parrot UAV Can Carry A Go Pro Video Camera”

  1. If you want to fly a multirotor camera platform the MikroKopter and OpenPilot are two high end control systems. OpenPilot is much less expensive and allow the use of low priced components, but MikroKopter is much more sophisticated in it's operation. A large RC helicopter is some what more stable just due to mass and a single rotor, it also allows you the ability to autorotate in the case of an engine failure. Helicopters do require much more skill, there are autopilots available for them now if your pockets are deep. For both helicopters and multirotor aircraft you need to be mechanically incline to keep them flying and with the multirotor setups some electronics knowledge is very useful.

    Here is something for you to try Santiago de Compostela Cathedral I think only a multirotor can achieve this.

  2. Very interesting.... I have been TRYING to figure out a way to do this since before the Parrot was even released, and the only way to attach a camera in the past had the propellers in view, which is not acceptable....

    I guess it's time to dabble... this looks great....!

  3. I already have the GoPro, so I think it may be time to get the Parrot. Seems pretty reasonably priced. This will make some great real estate videos. I think high end real estate photographers would get enough business from the Parrot, that they'd pay it off in a month. Also, the GoPro can abe set to fire stills at intervals. You can get some great areal photos as well, but they won't be as good of quality as a DSLR with a nice lens.

  4. Where does it end with the skills a $99 real estate photographer must have in order to stay competitive. Even if you bump the prices to the $159 that seems to becoming more the norm for a lot of RE Photographers, the skill level required to do everything is constantly changing. Most REP's haven't mastered regular video yet and now they are going to fly a helicopter? I think we all need to sit back and decide the following: a. How much are we going to charge for base work and what will that base work cover. b. What else can we afford to add to our tool box and how much can we charge for it? - are we dumming down the extras - do we use HDR as a lazy solution over proper lighting? c. What type of video are we adding to our tours - are we just using straight out from our DSLR's, do we have glide rails, are we steady enough to use a steadicam? And, now - up up up - mastering the pole tilt and remote shooting or mastering the helicopter and which is more likely to need replacing more often? Our theory at Powervision360 is to use contractors for the aerial shots from a helicopter - I am willing to make less money to have better shots to sell to my customers than sell my customers or give my customers bad shots. Here in Arizona there is a great R/C helicopter photographer willing to give me a slight discount so i can make some money - but wow - are the photos ever worth it. Anytime we provide better photography to our clients, then we get more referrals and more business. We need to sit back, take a deep breath and remember where are skills are -not all of us can be Scott Hargis or Brett Clemens or the other greats in this group. We can strive to get there, we can learn skills, read blogs etc.

    this is not meant to be discouraging, but rather a thought provoking item to once again - go back to a business plan, create pricing that meets your abilities and if you don't have the ability - hire someone. Collaboration is the best way to keep your business going, become more profitable and provide product to your customer that that customer needs such as aerial photography. After two or three times out with an expert, you may be ready to try it on your own. Its not the money invested in the R/C helicopter and the gocam - its the opportunity lost from making a promise of an outstanding aerial to a client that cannot be delivered that will ultimately have a negative impact.

    I feel very strongly that we keep upping the ante for our business. I feel very strongly that we keep upping the ante on our skill level. That is why we take classes from the greats. We are looking forward to our November class with Scott Hargis in Phoenix to retouch up our lighting skills and rub shoulders with the "great-one"!

  5. @Suzanne- Excellent point! Staying focused on your strengths is super important when building a business. It's easy to be distracted by all these new technologies. I had second thoughts about doing this post for exactly this reason. Scott Hargis and Brett Clements are two of the most focused guys I know.

    On the other hand we live in a world where the technology is changing so fast that we are being forced to continually reinvent our businesses as the world. Notice that Ryan Ward that got me going on this subject is a Atlanta Realtor, not a real estate photographer.

    I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that for $650 you can have your own drone that shoots HD video.

  6. @Suzanne you can stay focused on your skills but if you don't continue to grow and evolve you will become stagnant and others will pass you up. Continue to improve what you know and constantly look for new techniques and processes that will help you push the envelope.

  7. Thanks Larry!

    I certainly would not want to speak for other agents, but to me, the only thing more important than photos/video is price and that means it's absolutely critical to a good listing. I'm a tech savvy guy and photography is something that I hold as a dear hobby and so I don't mind spending money on the necessary tools (next stop for me is a class on lighting).

    Also, I'm sure I'm not like the average agent, but as Larry points out I am AN agent and certainly not the only one who wants/strives to make sure that my listings get special treatment. I am always looking for new/innovative ways to evoke emotional responses through visual media and therefore this website is a daily read for me and new technologies that make it possible are high priority items to me.

    If an agent can find ways/use tools to distinguish themselves from other agents, we stand to have greater success in my industry, I imagine that would be the same for photography and just about everything else as well.

    For me, it's about always learning. Always trying to produce marketing materials that are exceptional and better than the ones I did before.

    To me, photography is marketing. The spoken word about a home can't evoke a response that images can.

    Almost all higher end agents use photographers for big listings. Having a larger set of offerings may help photographers get a larger share of that business. I think this could be a tool that can help!

  8. I just like the idea since I have flown RC for the last 35 years, but only started helicopters last year. I think it's a great area for someone who has the skill and time. You may find that real estate photography would become a minor part of your business if you get good at shooting with a helicopter. Be prepared to watch you helicopter become a twisted mass while learning if you don't have any experience. RC pilot/photographers that are good they don't use small/inexpensive aircraft.

  9. @Larry and @Robert I can very easily see how the readers might think that I am just for staying focused and not changing or growing. Actually, that is the antithesis of what I meant to say. What I meant to say is that technology is changing so fast and so many things are happening in our industry that we must stay educated and learn about all of these new ideas. However, at the same time, it is expensive to purchase new technology and it is even harder to learn and implement this technology. So, I was just voicing concern that as RE Photographers we become aware of the technology, find sources to learn and collaborate with and figure out how these technologies fit into our business model and our business plan. Would new plug-ins for better photofinishing for $200-$300 bring in more business or would a helicopter - maybe you could do both. As I stated, we are using a local R/C helicopter company to do our ariels (thank you Greg Utton also a PFRE blog reader) for helping us to find this resource. We will collaborate and use the services as we learn what sells and for how much and what is actually required to take good ariel photographers. We will only earn $25 per shot right now, but that is better than making a $700 investment and a time investment only to find that realtors love the idea, but don't really want to spend the money. This is the best of both worlds - offer the service, learn the service and earn some money while determining where in the ariel market we want to be. BTW, one of my fellow tour dealers uses airplanes to do her ariel shots - totally different type of photography yet again!

  10. P.S. Just a little aside - flying an R/C helicopter - how much fun is that! So...for me the fun factor has to be stifled until I figure out the business justification!

  11. Interesting points everyone, as a budding RE photographer, I always try to ask the question, "What is going to help my agent SELL his property?" These are all new ideas and could be effective tools in some cases and totally useless in others.

  12. Hi Larry.

    Thanks so much for writing about my product =) I was not expecting this design to work as well as it does.
    And yes it is most definately the cheapest option for taking aerial photos available on the market.
    I have actually been hired to take photos for real estate agents, and also a kindergarden wher all the kids were gathered for a group shot. Again, thanks so much for featuring my product, if you want me to send you the photos i have taken with the mount please contact me.

    On another note, if you are interrested in testing and reviewing it i will be more than happy to send you a free sample of both the top Go Pro mount and undermount with extra spare parts, that is if you want to get yourself a drone to test it on. It would be very nice to see what results a experienced photographer can get with this rig.

    Best regards
    Daniel Owren -

  13. What are non-military and non-government applications for UAVs?...

    1. Google Air - StreetView from above for very interesting areas - 2. Low budget aerial photography -

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