Drone vs Helicopter – Which is best for Aerial Photography & Video?

When approaching an aerial video or aerial photography project, there are two main options available from suppliers of aerial photography services- shooting with a drone (or UAV) or shooting from a helicopter. While the end result will ultimately look the same, there are a number of differences between the two that we will cover in the article below.

Over the years, our team have taken aerial images and shot video from both drones and helicopters. We’ve also used gliders and microlights- but these are not as common a solution, so we have decided to compare the two most popular methods of capturing aerial visuals; drones and helicopters.


It probably won’t come as much of a surprise, but the cost of hiring a helicopter, along with a pilot to fly it, and a camera operator to capture your aerial footage or stills is considerably higher than that of hiring a CAA approved commercial drone pilot. The aircraft in the image at the top of this page (that’s our guy hanging out of the door!) would cost in the region of £300 per hour to hire- and that is without the cost of hiring the photographer or videographer. Costs for hiring a drone operator tend to cost more in the region of £100 per hour or £350 for a half day of filming.



One factor that all clients must consider when arranging an aerial shoot, is the effect the weather can have. To cut a long story short- drones do not fair well in wind. Or rain. Or snow. A small professional drone will be severely effected by winds over 20mph. A two tonne helicopter on the other hand will have no problem in any of the above conditions. 

Northamptonshire Aerial Video & Drone Photography - CIRRUS

Northamptonshire Aerial Video & Drone Photography – CIRRUS


While a helicopter will be able to fly in adverse conditions, it’s worth considering that they still have their limits. The first one you may stumble upon is that helicopters can rarely be hired at short notice. So if you decide would like to capture aerial video or stills at short notice, chances are you won’t be hiring a helicopter. Drone pilots are obviously more agile, and can often be on the road with their equipment in to the back of the car at a moments notice. Similarly, you won’t often see a helicopter flying indoors! 


Most commercial drone operators have clearance from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to operate their drones at a maximum altidide of 400ft. Helicopters can, of course, operate at MUCH higher altitudes. In our experience though, so most aerial photography or video work, the 400ft limit when shooting with a drone is perfectly acceptable. In fact, being able to get closer to the action with a drone is actually a good thing!


As you can see, drones and helicopters both have their place in the world of aerial video production and photography. Ultimately, in most instances the decision to choose either a drone or a helicopter for your shoot will come down to budget and if the date of the shoot can be flexible (to allow for pushbacks due to poor weather conditions). 

If you would like to discuss an upcoming requirement for aerial video or drone photography- contact us today. We are Northamptonshire’s leading provider of aerial visuals- view our list of aerial photo and video services here.