Eyes in the Sky
Commercial drones have become a popular way for people to engage in aerial or extreme photography. Being able to attach a digital camera to a quadcopter has enabled professionals and hobbyists alike to capture unique scenes from the sky.
Whether you're interested in recording high-definition aerial footage, or you just want to experiment with capturing high-flying views, here are some of the coolest camera-carrying drones available on the market.
The DraganFlyer X6 helicopter is an easy-to-fly system designed to capture high-resolution aerial photos and videos. The drone can reach up to 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) above ground level and can fly uninterrupted for roughly 15 to 20 minutes (though specific countries may have agencies that regulate the use of air space).
An accompanying controller provides aircraft control, camera control, live video downlink and real-time aircraft telemetry. The durable, carbon-fiber helicopter has been used for real estate and wildlife aerial photography, industrial inspection, video production, educational research and public safety, according to company officials at Draganfly Innovations, Inc.
Individuals interested in purchasing a DraganFlyer X6 are encouraged to seek a quote from Draganfly Innovations, but these drone systems can cost nearly $15,000. The price also includes a two-day flight training program at the company's factory in Saskatoon, Canada.
Storm Drone 4
The Storm Drone 4, designed by Helipal, is a quadcopter designed to carry a GoPro camera to capture aerial photos and high-definition videos. The small but durable drone can fly for six or seven minutes. The drone is also equipped with two white LED lights in the front and two red LED lights in the back, which can create an interesting effect at night, according to company officials.
The Storm Drone 4 is targeted at people interested in experimenting with aerial photography, or hobbyists looking for a versatile drone to fly for fun. The vehicle retails for $359.90.
The AR.Drone 2.0 is a smartphone-controlled drone, developed by Parrot, that can capture high-definition photos and videos. With Parrot's app, users can control the vehicle's takeoff, or command the drone to hover or flip.
Users can switch between the drone's two onboard cameras, or stream live footage on their smartphones or tablets. The vehicle's onboard technology includes automatic stabilization features and sensors to provide pilots with precise control over the drone. The AR.Drone 2.0 retails for $299.99. [BUY the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 >>>]
Phantom 2 Vision
The Phantom 2 Vision is a remote-controlled, camera-carrying drone developed by DJI. The vehicle can snap photos or record high-definition video from nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) in the air. A high-performance battery offers up to 25 minutes of flight time, and live video from the onboard camera can be streamed to an iPhone or Android smartphone through DJI's app.
The $1,200 system comes with a remote control, but if connection is lost with the Phantom 2 Vision, the drone can use GPS to land itself at the same site where it launched, company officials said. [BUY DJI Phantom Drone >>>]
The Pocket Drone
The Pocket Drone, being developed by AirDroids, is a lightweight, collapsible vehicle that is marketed as a "personal flying robot." The drone is designed to carry high-definition cameras, including the popular GoPro brand. The Pocket Drone can fly for up to 20 minutes, and travel more than 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) away from where the pilot is standing.
The remote-controlled drone also has a "follow me" feature, that can keep the vehicle a set distance behind and above you as you move around. The project is being crowdfunded through Kickstarter, but AirDroids intends to sell units for $495.
The EYE-Droid 4, developed by Infinite Jib, is a compact, lightweight drone that can carry a variety of camera types and styles. It is marketed as a "ready-to-fly flight system with features for the professional." The drone can be flown by one or two pilots (with two people, one pilot focuses on the position of the vehicle, while the co-pilot manages the camera's perspective.
The EYE-Droid 4 drones starts at $10,500, and the price includes a one-day training session at the company's facilities outside of Toronto, Canada.
The LA100, developed by Lehmann Aviation, is a lightweight drone designed for people with no piloting background. The fully autonomous drone is equipped with a mount for a GoPro camera, which can snap aerial photos or record high-flying videos. The vehicle, which resembles a glider, has a wingspan that stretches 36 inches (92 centimeters).
Users can select one of the suggested flight paths and altitudes, launch the drone and wait for it to return return after five minutes of flight. The LA100 is made of foam and carbon fiber, and is durable and easy to transport. The cost of an LA100 starts at $1,656.67.
While many commercial drones are being designed to carry cameras high in the sky, one robotic system can help you capture fun photos underwater. Ziphius, developed by Azorean, is an app-controlled aquatic drone that can take high-definition photos and videos under the water.
Users can control the movements of the drone and camera with a smartphone or tablet. Ziphius can also play augmented reality games and exhibit autonomous behaviors, according to company officials. The drone, which functions similar to a remote-controlled boat, can swim at a speed of up to 6 mph (10 km/h).
Ziphius began as a crowdfunded project on Kickstarter, but can be ordered online starting at $199.
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Denise Chow was the assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. Before joining the Live Science team in 2013, she spent two years as a staff writer for Space.com, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University.