Costs of Aerial Photography and Videography
It can be somewhat difficult to provide a list of costs associated with various aerial photographic and videographic projects since there are so many variables. Costs such as those associated with flight time, pilots fees on an hourly basis and the like can often be stated up front, and even posted, but any two projects, although they may be similar in nature, are seldom exactly alike; consequently, the prices charged will tend to differ.
There is also a consideration of cost vs. quality. Superior quality usually requires both superior equipment, which often means more expensive equipment, and the services of highly skilled and experienced camera operators. On the flip side, the more features the equipment has, and the more experienced the operator is, the less time it may take to take procure the needed imagery.
Owning vs. Renting – Airplanes vs. Helicopters
Doing business with a company that owns its own plane can sometimes result in a cost savings, although the purchase price of the airplane and the need to maintain it have to be folded into the cost of the work to be done. Chartering an airplane is an option and in some cases is the only option available, but charters are usually expensive and the additional expense will be passed on, at least to some degree, to the client. Whether rented or company-owned, helicopters tend to be more expensive, at least on an hourly basis, than are fixed-wing aircraft. While airplanes may cost less, not any airplane will do. If you are a frequent flier, you are probably aware that attempting to take photos through airplane windows do not usually result in high quality images. Airplanes used for high-quality aerial photography and videography will almost always feature a window that is removable.
Masts and Balloons
Masts are cheaper, especially since portable masts are usually readily available. A mast is often the best option for a real estate agent who wants to be able to show a low-level oblique view of a private residence. For very large homes, and for estates, the use of balloons can be practical, weather permitting. Renting a balloon, or doing business with a company that uses them for aerial photography is certainly something worth considering as there are situations in which the use of fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters could be considered as overkill.
The Use of Drones
Drones should be mentioned as well. They are inexpensive relative to larger aircraft and can be used for both vertical and oblique images. Some real estate agents as well as a number of entrepreneurs have begun using drones, but there is one problem. The use of drones for aerial photography is forbidden in the United States at the moment, and will likely remain so for some time, especially in more heavily urbanized locations. At some point in time the FAA may determine a means of controlling the use of drones, but that is likely to be akin to attempting to control the use of cell phones or the Internet. Drones should not be considered as a viable option at this time.
For large-scale constructions projects, land development projects, city planning and the like, the use of aircraft is the best choice, and in many cases the only practical choice, and it is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.