I am a film producer and was just recently introduced to the idea of using a helicopter drone for film.  The more I have researched the more fascinated I have become with the idea. That being said I am in desperate need of your help.  I am so new to this that most everything in the forums just goes right over my head.  I don't have the foggiest what most of it means.

I am looking to find a helicopter drone that is capable of carrying something as large as a dslr.  I think it would need a gyro gimbal (I think that is what it is called) to help keep it level and smooth.  Also, the ability to see the video from the helicopter so that you have an idea of what you are capturing.  Thats about it.  I don't need a million bells and whistles because I wouldn't know what to do with them.

Any suggestions? I don't even know where to begin. It appears you can build them yourself for much cheaper but then as I said I don't know anything about them and it seems complicated.  Any recommendations for the cheapest helicopter out there that still has good enough quality and matches what I am looking for?  I would love something in the thousand dollar range but I don't know if that is totally unrealistic?

Any help from all of you experienced pros would be greatly appreciated.



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You chose RealFlight Basic? I'd suggest you return it unopened if it's not too late. Amazon makes that very easy to do. It may look like a bargain at $99, but it is not upgradeable. From the RealFlight Support website:

"Due to the differences in the controller hardware that is included with RealFlight Basic and RealFlight G5, an upgrade is not feasible.  G5 requires the full feature, USB InterLink controller."

Also, their Expansion Packs ($30 bucks each, which is where you get their quad sim) are not compatible and will not install in RealFlight Basic. Again, from their website:

"The RealFlight Expansion Packs are not compatible with RealFlight Basic. Expansion Packs 1 through 4 are compatible with RealFlight G3 and above.  Expansion Packs 5 and 6 are compatible with RealFlight G4 and above."

This hobby, maybe more than most others, requires careful thought about future needs before buying anything. If you buy only just what you need for today, you'll soon wind up with a big box full of obsolete stuff that does not serve your needs going forward. And you will wind up paying much more in the end.

RealFlight Basic seems like a bargain, but when you factor in the cost of the transmitter that it does *not* come with, you're actually spending a lot more by the time you get to the flying field, which is what this is all about. (The controller that RealFlight Basic comes with not only can't be used as a transmitter, it can't even be used with any other RealFlight simulator!)

The full-fledged transmitter that PhoenixRC comes with - a Spektrum 5eDX - retails for $99. Throw in $75 bucks for a top-of-the-line simulator that is fully upgradeable, and *includes* a quad sim with no "expansion packs" to buy to boot, and you are *way* ahead of the game when you get to the flying field. You've spent significantly less and gotten more for it.

As far as on-line tutorials, they're all over the 'net! Some better than others, but just about anything you might have a question about, some guy has a video or a blog or both detailing how to do it. You might find half a dozen guys with half a dozen ways of doing it! Between those and the RCGroups.com forum and this forum here at DIYDrones, I doubt there is a problem you can't solve or a skill you can't learn.

It's working so far for me! Here is the Build Log of my very first quad - the X525. I couldn't have done it without the help of other online builders... Good Luck!





Your advice is very helpful! I did purchase the real flight G5 off amazon for $150 however now I am still debating returning it and getting the phoenix RC just for the transmitter.  I will have to look more into that.  I think you are right.  I could buy a ready to fly helicopter for $600 but I don't know the first thing about it.  It would be great to start from the ground up and really begin to figure out how it works so that I can someday upgrade to a much better helicopter for filming.  I think your build log is super useful.  Thanks for taking the time to post it.  I will probably end up going your route, but as you say this is all stuff that needs careful consideration and planning.


Oh, I see. The RealFlight G5 is an excellent simulator. It may not have a quad sim right out of the box, but you can get one for it very easily. My advice changes now. ;-)

Now I'd say hold on to the RealFlight G5, especially if it's Mac-native. PhoenixRC is Windows-only and has to be run on the Mac in Parallels or Fusion.

The choice of transmitter is easily dealt with - a very popular entry-level 8 channel radio is the Turnigy 9X. $53 plus shipping from China. Cheaper than the Spektrum, with 3 more channels, plus it's programmable.

You're doing fine. ;-)


Well I took the plunge. I followed your advice (charles) and ordered the X525 Kit.  I received my RealFlight G6 simulator and have begun practicing my flying.  The kit will begin to arrive hopefully this week. A question for those of you who have flown quads.  When I practice with a normal helicopter and move the tail rotor (left joystick moving left or right) it rotates the helicopter.  However with the quadcopter on Realflight it does not appear to do anything.  Does this not function not exist on quadcopters or is it a problem with the simulator? 

Cant wait to begin the learning process.  Thanks for everyones help and advice.


On a multicopter the sticks should function the same way as a helo. The left stick (yaw) should make the multicopter pivot.

I haven't used RealFlight, but I'm guessing that you might need to set the stick functions on a model-by-model basis. And yes, the left stick, left-right movement (in Mode 2) normally controls the Rudder on a plane, the Tail Rotor on a heli and Yaw on a multicopter. Look into your controller setup for that particular model.

Hello Jake Sorensen

you save me a lo of questions with this thread,  I'm about to buy the Phoenix R/C Pro Simulator V4.0 w/DX5e  to start my training... how did you project went  since may...? did you build your quad..??  I'm in the same position you were months ago... I want to start in this.. and was looking for a RTF quad or Hexa  capable to carry my DSLR Camera....

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