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Old Mar 21, 2014, 01:38 PM
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Joined Mar 2014
2 Posts
Remotely controlled camera boat

I'm new. Probably should read more before posting.
But perhaps you guys can point me in the right direction.

I'm a drift boat builder with 30 years experience, building full size.
Now I want to build a small ROV camera boat, inspired by the critter cams the National Geographic guys are putting on radio controlled trucks, that they drive right into the middle of a lion kill.

I want build a low-to-the-water wide and stable hull--perhaps foam and glass--that holds a radio controlled table that can spin and tilt a high quality camera, where all of that is mounted on top of the boat.

One control steers the boat. One control points the camera. Another control tells the camera to start shooting. Are there any how-to-do-it resources out there I should know about? Building a hull will be easy for me. Buying what equipment and putting it all together I know nothing about. My Nikon cameras have Wifi adapters that tell the camera when to focus and when to shoot. But wifi doesn't go very far. I'm hoping I can do the same thing with a longer distance signal of some kind.

I have lots to learn. But I can build anything.

I want to make this boat look like a duck decoy and then slowly swim it out into rafts of ducks, shore birds geese, beavers, muskrats, etc. Wildlife photography done from a tethered laptop if possible.
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Old Apr 07, 2014, 03:38 PM
Registered User
Joined Mar 2014
2 Posts
Slow speed camera boat

I'm still in learning mode. Bought a book.

I want to build a radio controlled and battery powered slow speed boat, with camera mounted on top. I'll use WIFI to control the camera.

All the boats and youtube videos I see on the net revolve around high speed racing boats. I can build my own hull. Does anybody know anything about gearing these hotrods down so they creep slowly, rather than zoom around?

I want to make a duck decoy that moves. So I can sneak up on aquatic birds and photograph them.
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Old Apr 08, 2014, 06:25 AM
NeverAgainVolunteerYourse lf
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Australia, QLD, Regents Park
Joined Mar 2007
3,746 Posts
Speed is just selecting the appropriate motor and prop,

A 40 mm prop and a rock crawler 540 motor (55 (or higher) turn they are sometimes called) or low Kv brushless motor will have enough grunt to move a 10 pound boat just fine which should cover the big Nikon camera platform. the duck is a bit more work the same prop and motor and judicial use of the throttle .

To operate the camera may take some playing around, may be easier to increase the Wifi range with directional antennas, is it a direct app on the phone to camera? for basic functions you need a 4 channel radio, 1 for throttle, one for steering, one for table rotate and one for shutter operation, and then you will have to rely on the cameras auto function to compose the shot. , These days its cheap to get 9 channel radios though around $90 US by the time you get batteries, servos etc
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Old May 17, 2014, 03:50 AM
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Joined Mar 2012
67 Posts
Hi, I'm sure this will be a nice project, but you really would do better to ask this on a boats forum. The ROV forum is for ROV's, which operate under the water. We can tell you lots about sinking cameras. Not so much about floating them
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Old Aug 17, 2014, 10:59 PM
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Joined Apr 2014
297 Posts
Very interesting project. I wouldn't mind doing something similar but I know nothing about electronics or building boats.

Originally Posted by pittendrigh View Post
My Nikon cameras have Wifi adapters that tell the camera when to focus.
Although Wifi would certainly be handy, it probably wouldn't be necessary to have a specific Wifi function for focusing. A lot of these so called 'critter cams' are equipped with wide angle lenses which have an inherently large depth of field. I think it would make life much simpler if you mount a wide angle lens on your Nikon camera and use hyperfocal focusing.

I saw a similar sort of concept in an old wildlife documentary but without an rc boat. A cinematographer was walking waist deep through a lake, with his torso, arms and head completely concealed by a fake pelican 'body' he had constructed. There was a hole in the pelican 'body' rig through which a wide angle lens protruded, attached to a 16mm motion picture camera. He was able to get up really close to pelicans and got some great footage from it.
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Old Aug 21, 2014, 08:23 PM
Carlisle, PA
Joined May 2007
33 Posts
I see this post is a few months old, but feel free to send me a PM if your still trying to sort this out. I have built a few platforms for photos above and below water like you have proposed. I have never disguised anything to look like a decoy, but have found that running slow, and silently will get you right next to all but the most cautious critters.

Where you plan to operate your vessel has a huge impact on design, but once you nail that down, you will find there is an almost limitless supply of bits to build just what you want.
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