R.B. Copter – see HDSLRs fly and hire them for your project

by planetmitch11 Comments

Dustin Wenger sent us his new video about this aerial platform called the RB Copter. Everyone's always intrigued by the ability to fly HDSLRs and get shots that are unusual for film – so here's another option for you.

bullfilms.com, is the production company that owns the R.B. Copter. It is not available for purchase, just rental and comes with a pilot and a DP (me.) I really just wanted to share this with you because what we've been shooting with it is very different from all of the videos we've seen on the web. We've taken a tool that was used by hobbyists and used for nature video and made it able to track faster action and maintain better stability.

Sample video

the behind-the-scenes:

More background from Dustin

Thanks for taking interest in the R.B. Copter video that I shared. The R.B Copter is a custom built electric powered, 8-rotor flying mount with a remote-controlled 2-axis gimbal that can carry a camera payload up to 8.5 lbs. The advantage it has over traditional RC “pod and boom” type helicopter mounts is that it is much more stable with the 8 rotors, which are in constant communication with each other to maintain stability in the air, and footage looks as though it was shot on a Steadicam. In our demo video, there are only 3 shots that were stabilized in post. Also important is that the R.B. Copter is battery powered, so there's no issue with emissions that you would have with a gas powered copter.

The R.B. Copter is controlled by a pilot and the camera gimbal is controlled remotely by an operator who is able to watch a wireless video feed on a monitor above his controls. The gimbal pan and tilt is responsive enough to keep up with quick action, as seen in our demo video. That, combined with the ability to move the camera through just about any space imaginable in any way manageable makes the R.B. Copter an extremely versatile tool. It can reach heights of at least 1/2 a mile (we've had it up to 2660 feet already) and has a flight radius of 5 miles, though flight time is dictated by battery life and weight. With a Canon T2i, we are getting flight times of over 6 minutes, depending on the maneuvers. This gives us a few takes per flight, which is usually enough for each shot as they are thoroughly planned before take off. Any maneuver you can imagine is likely possible with the R.B. Copter.

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


  1. We’re lucky enough to have an extremely talented pilot with over 10 years of experience flying our copter, and all sorts of fail-safes in place. That’s why we only rent out the copter with our pilot!

  2. Did you know what you’re promoting is illegal according to the FAA. Surely you know this. Don’t want to hear you’re certified…that a hunk of junk. The FAA will set rules sometime next year…maybe. For now any and all commercial work, paid gigs etc is illegal. Heck even using your craft to promote your business is illegal in the FAA’s eyes. Read on:


  3. Illegal or not yet legislated? If the US is anything like the UK in terms of bureaucracy, it may well take ages for the FAA to work it out. In the meantime, should innovation and talent suffer? Especially when commonsense and respect for your surroundings are taken as read?

    There are 10s of thousands of people everywhere using RC copters, etc. Are these people all breaking the law too? I’m in the UK and would, without question, use the help and services of this company in the appropriate shoot circumstances. I neither know nor care for a law that may or may not accommodate my plans. I film.

    I’m not looking to pick an argument, only to point out that a lot of things take time to legislate and there will always be pioneers. Do you think the Wright brothers would have given a flying duck about any law? Would that have been wrong?

    Give the guys credit. They’re ahead of the field, and a government body that can’t keep up. The worldwide story of government bureaucracy as a whole. It’s why the private sector owns most governments; they make the rules up, the government ‘back fill’ as they go along…

  4. Firstly, no one said flying for hobby is illegal…get it straight. I know at least 2 similar companies in the US that have been closed down by the FAA over the years. The moral of the story is if you’re selling crack you wouldn’t promote it on the internet…the DEA may come knocking. Same for anyone going against the rules of a government agency whose in the business of regulating the skies…why would you promote such a business publicly, you’re making their job way too easy if they decided to make a NEW example of someone. BE SMART

  5. Photo Rick, I appreciate your input even though your delivery is quite off-putting. The team I work with has studied the law and from what I understand, as long as we are under 400 feet we are out of FAA jurisdiction and safe to fly.

  6. Untrue. FAA uav airspace starts the second you launch a remotely operated craft. Again, this all has nothing to do with flying RC as a hobby. Only applies to work for hire. Using any RC craft at any altitude for financial compensation is deemed illegal in the FAA’s eyes at ANY altitude. Call them they’ll happily tell you the same.

  7. In response to this website/forum about rules and regulations anyone may want to check this out…especially if you are using RTF helicopters, quad copters, gliders, etc. for commercial, and promotional purposes. I have always wanted to get a RTF vehicle for photography. This will not interfere with my ambitions and desires to engage in this type of hobby or even a s a business. Just make sure you are licensed legally if you decide to do it to make money. Good luck to you guys because you are very talented individuals!

    Copy and paste the link below for more info!


  8. @Photo Rick is correct — the below 400 AGL rule is for RC hobby craft only — not commercial. As soon as you charge or promote with the video that copter becomes a commercial UAS and requires a COA from the FAA to operate. Since the FAA only gives these to government agencies and universities — operating an RC-for-hire AP business is illegal.

    Now, just last week congress passed a law requiring the FAA to integrate UASs into the national airspace. This means that sometime in the next few years the FAA will release rules on the commercial operation of UASs and therefore setup a legal avenue to obtain the proper licenses. Until then, you are either a hobbiest or you are running the risk of the FAA shutting you down.

    Also, from a business perspective — how are you insuring that? What happens if that falls out of the sky and hits someone?

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