Although I don't want to trivialize the many other aspects of 'drones', they are essentially flying platforms to which we intend to mount aerial cameras. Therefore, I'd like to start talking a bit more about the camera side of the equation.
Gopros have become quite popular... I'm aware of that. But has anyone been using other cameras they have positive results with at the same level of image/video quality?
Going a step beyond the Gopro... who's tinkering with FLIR and other 'professional' level micro cameras intended for drone use? Anyone? Feedback?
I have a Contour HD instead of a GoPro. I greatly prefer it largely because of some physical factors such as design and constructions. I find the GoPro looks like it came out of a Crackerjack box. Also, the GoPro has way too much fisheye. I'm getting a bit tired of watching GoPro videos onlline because of it. The Contour has arguably comparable video quality, less fish-eye, and is built much better. Some of the new Contours have some really nice features too.
But for any kind of "serious" photography, I've got a Sony WX10 P&S. Video quality is much better than either of the sports cameras, with no fisheye at all. And it's very compact. I don't plan to fly with a big DSLR, at least not for a while.
The Panasonic GH2, Micro Four Thirds DLSR is very popular in more professional rigs. Used together with a firmware hack to get high birate recordings the results can be nothing short of amazing. https://vimeo.com/31986867
Myself I am experimenting with high-end consumer camcorders to get good results. The reason I went the camcorder route is that they have sensors, optics and image stabilization meant for video built in. Cost and weight is also less then a DSLR with a good lens. Currently the Panasonic HC-X900M looks promising. It has good sensors with true 1080p60 video at 28Mbit and very good image stabilization working in all axises including roll, which is uncommon for camcorder stabilization.
I have both Contour+ (158g) and GoPro HD Hero 2 (198g with mounting). Both have fisheye effect because of the super wide angle and they are great for FPV flying. Quality between them are very similar.
For actual camera, I have a couple of Canon SLR (over 700g with 50mm lens), but I think they are too heavy for my 450 to lift. I have a very old "small" point and shoot Canon but I just weighted it and it's 1.5kg! lol.
I originally got into this hobby (as an adult) because I was interested in an aerial still photography rig. But as learned more about it its become a hobby in itself. I still plan to build an AP rig with my Panasonic GF3 as the camera. I think the GoPro quality video is just good enough to use in most situations but the stills arent. The GF3 is small, relatively light depending on the lens, and is capable of good video and very good stills. With the micro four thirds and mini-dslr market taking off I imagine there were be a lot of options for small cameras with near DSLR quality.