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Old Feb 14, 2009, 07:15 AM
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MadMonkey572's Avatar
United States, TX, Roanoke
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Not quite a UAV, not quite FPV... need advice on a system

I figured this could go here

I'm putting together a kinda-sorta UAV system for a local Airsoft organization... it's not autonomous, it'll be flown in LOS by me with an observer watching the camera and communicating with the team (a time crunch is making me keep it simple... I usually tend to over-engineer a wee bit ).

I'm using an Easy Star airframe so it will have at least a remote similarity to a real-world UAV (the RQ-11 Raven is closest... the Easy Star will be slightly modified for a more "military look"). I already have the airframe, motor, and electronics worked out; in fact, most of the stuff is on order right now.

What I DON'T have is experience with ANY FPV equipment at all.

My requirements are pretty simple...

1. Decent resolution camera; I need to be able to pick out camouflaged people from a few hundred feet up. Hopefully they'll be moving

2. Reasonable range... we don't need the feed to be cutting in and out, but I won't be flying beyond my own visual range, which will be limited because of trees, etc (I'll try to be in the open for best reception). So it doesn't have to be miles, just somewhere between 1000 or 2000 feet.

3. A decent-quality monitor. I honestly don't know what would be best. Goggles? A small LCD? I don't have experience with goggles so I don't know how good they are.

Now, I would like to keep all of this easily portable, which means goggles would be a very nice option.

The camera will be mounted on the side of the plane, looking down and to the left (probably), which would give us a steady view if I orbit above a target area (I'm considering gyros for stabilization). I don't know if I need a zoom or not, but it would probably help.

I thought about using two cameras, one zoomed and one wider angle, but that seems like it would add a lot of expense and complication, BUT, all the observer has to do is switch between inputs to get a closer look.

Head tracking would be a plus... I've seen units at Hobby Wireless for around $345, which is within my budget of about $400 (preferably a lot less than that).

So I'd like a nice, complete system that would give us a fairly reliable feed with good resolution... something that is already set up for Lipo power would be nice, since I'll be out in the sticks with only my van and field box for charging.

More than likely I'll be using an older Futaba 6EXA transmitter that I don't have any use for. I thought about buying a dedicated DX5, but that would put me over budget.

If it helps, I have a HAM license... I don't know if that would allow me to use anything better though.


PLEASE help me out here... I'd like to have this stuff ordered within a week or so so I can get this setup in the air and doing test runs.

The first event it will be used in is April 18th... I'd like to make sure I can finish well before the deadline.

Help a n00b out!

Thanks for any info
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Old Feb 14, 2009, 09:56 AM
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Elmhurst, NY (Queens in NYC)
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Sounds very straight forward.

I think the only advice I would give you is don't bother with zoom. The more zoom you use the less you can see and the more the image moves around.

A plain old KX 131 camera would probably do very well. It seems to have better color than many others and that may be a bigger help than slightly higher resolution. I would go for about a 60° viewing angle as far as lenses go. I have all the lenses that are available for my camera but I only fly two, one of about 60° and the other of about 90°.

I use KX 141's from Black Widow, and they are a bit sharper and have slightly less saturated colors.

My personal experience is that you don't need nearly as much power in the video tx that people tend to use. Most of my flying has been with 50 mW tx's and one 200 mW tx, but club rules restrict my range to over the field. The only time I ever lost signal was with my original Draganfly combo cam/tx edge on to the antenna, and that happened just once. It was probably in the 10 mW range.

Since you are a ham, do put your call sign in the video image if possible. Mine is on a piece of tape that the camera can see. I figure the non-hams only have to say "duh?" but we are expected to know the rules.

Tilt and pan is very nice to have, head tracking is a plus but adds complications. If you want it, check to make sure your RC tx is compatible with the head tracker you pick out.

That's all I can think of.

Pete
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Old Feb 14, 2009, 11:08 AM
Ubu
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If you’re trying to locate camouflaged people a inferred camera would probably be the best choice.
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Old Feb 14, 2009, 03:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ubu
If you’re trying to locate camouflaged people a inferred camera would probably be the best choice.
Try pricing one. Then, if you are able to get one, weigh it!

We have a very fine one at work, used (very occasionally) for finding bad bearings or poor wiring. It probably weighs three or four pounds. I'd love to take one up for an airplane ride, but not FPV!

Pete
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Old Feb 14, 2009, 03:48 PM
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Atlanta, GA
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Infrared cameras are expensive, and if you want a decent lightweight infrared camera, then they are very expensive. I looked into this thoroughly a while back.
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Old Feb 14, 2009, 04:18 PM
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United States, TX, Roanoke
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I did consider infrared.... for about 30 seconds

Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteSchug
I think the only advice I would give you is don't bother with zoom. The more zoom you use the less you can see and the more the image moves around.
I thought about that, I just wasn't sure what the FOV would be at normal flying altitudes. I guess I could always drop some altitude for a closer look

Quote:
A plain old KX 131 camera would probably do very well. It seems to have better color than many others and that may be a bigger help than slightly higher resolution. I would go for about a 60° viewing angle as far as lenses go. I have all the lenses that are available for my camera but I only fly two, one of about 60° and the other of about 90°.

I use KX 141's from Black Widow, and they are a bit sharper and have slightly less saturated colors.
I looked into those, and they seem reasonable. Thanks for the tip!

Quote:
My personal experience is that you don't need nearly as much power in the video tx that people tend to use. Most of my flying has been with 50 mW tx's and one 200 mW tx, but club rules restrict my range to over the field. The only time I ever lost signal was with my original Draganfly combo cam/tx edge on to the antenna, and that happened just once. It was probably in the 10 mW range.
Those little camera/transmitter combos have their place in a future project of mine

So I could order a transmitter/receiver combo from, say, HobbyWireles in the 200mw range and it should be plenty? Should it be 900mhz or which?

Quote:
Since you are a ham, do put your call sign in the video image if possible. Mine is on a piece of tape that the camera can see. I figure the non-hams only have to say "duh?" but we are expected to know the rules.
I haven't been active for a while so I didn't even think about that.

I'll put my info at least on the plane... I don't think I can get it in view of the camera.

Quote:
Tilt and pan is very nice to have, head tracking is a plus but adds complications. If you want it, check to make sure your RC tx is compatible with the head tracker you pick out.
At the moment it seems like headtracking might be more trouble than it's worth since I don't really have the spare time to play with it for this project. Definitely planning on it for a couple of future projects, though... but those will more than likely be in the UAV section


What about the goggles? Any experience with them?
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Old Feb 14, 2009, 11:23 PM
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Elmhurst, NY (Queens in NYC)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MadMonkey572
[snip]
What about the goggles? Any experience with them?
I never had a pair of goggles that I liked! I've got four pair and an eyetops, and I am waiting for something overwhelmingly good to come out.

If Sony would get back in the act (Sony's antique goggles were better than anything offered today.) I'd buy a pair instantly. I have one of their early, low res goggles and it has, by far, the best color and widest apparent field of anything I've tried. Sony's last goggles were high res and maintained the same quality of image, but were in very short supply.

I hope someone suggests something really good, because I will go out and buy it myself.

I am including a frame from a video to show one of the ways of placing a call sign. You can see more detail in the moving image since the brain seems to integrate details. An example is that a moving airplane in a video is easy to spot, but is a just a speck in a single frame. On my Easy Star the call sign is made of tall characters on the front cowling. I think you are supposed to show call signs at the beginning and end of transmission and every ten minutes, but mine are always visible.

BTW, the all up weight of the plane ready to fly is 9.5 oz.

Pete
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Old Feb 15, 2009, 12:09 AM
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United States, TX, Roanoke
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteSchug
I never had a pair of goggles that I liked! I've got four pair and an eyetops, and I am waiting for something overwhelmingly good to come out.

If Sony would get back in the act (Sony's antique goggles were better than anything offered today.) I'd buy a pair instantly. I have one of their early, low res goggles and it has, by far, the best color and widest apparent field of anything I've tried. Sony's last goggles were high res and maintained the same quality of image, but were in very short supply.

I hope someone suggests something really good, because I will go out and buy it myself.
Same here. I keep seeing a lot of them on the market but not many people have actually used them, apparently.

If you want to get rid of a pair cheap, let me know.. if all else fails I can use them to watch TV in bed

Quote:
I am including a frame from a video to show one of the ways of placing a call sign. You can see more detail in the moving image since the brain seems to integrate details. An example is that a moving airplane in a video is easy to spot, but is a just a speck in a single frame. On my Easy Star the call sign is made of tall characters on the front cowling. I think you are supposed to show call signs at the beginning and end of transmission and every ten minutes, but mine are always visible.

BTW, the all up weight of the plane ready to fly is 9.5 oz.

Pete
I like that... if I do an FPV setup I might take that route. For now I need the best view I can get, plus we'll be out in the sticks away from any major populated areas so I think I'll be okay.

What would you suggest as an alternate means to view the feed?
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Old Feb 15, 2009, 05:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MadMonkey572
[snip]
What would you suggest as an alternate means to view the feed?
I've had entire groups of kids watching the flight on the flip out screen of my camcorder.

Any screen you can get video on is all you need. People stick flat screens of various descriptions in cardboard boxes to reduce the amount of light washing out the image. Many portable DVD players can take a video feed and can be used that way. A cardboard box, painted black inside and mounted on a tripod or something similar is a pretty good way to look at airborne video.

Sometimes it helps to be seated! Nothing like watching the world tilt this way and that while standing. It doesn't bother me, but I can imagine people swaying with the image.

There are DVD players made for car use that have extra screens, and you can probably use the extra screen that way, but I've never done any of the above. I have used a DVD screen to focus my camera, since I had one that was sharper than my goggles, but every now and then I'd lose the image for no reason I could figure out. Not to handy if you are flying FPV.

I'm including another video frame. This is the almost crazy approach to my friend's driveway. I am the guy in the black shirt in the driveway. The white dot is my patch antenna on a tripod and the other person is Kåre Andersen, about 90 years old and still teaching skiing! I include it because it shows people, in the video we are a lot easier to see, but as mentioned, stills do not tell the whole story.

Pete
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Old Feb 15, 2009, 05:56 AM
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Hmm... the DVD screens sound promising. I wonder if they're sharp and clear enough to see well. One that includes a battery pack would be nice!!

I might be able to find one on Craigslist...
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Old Feb 15, 2009, 02:03 PM
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Just get a laptop...... and a telemaster..... :P
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Old Feb 19, 2009, 04:08 PM
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Okay I have another question..

I mentioned that I don't really need zoom that badly, BUT, how difficult would it be to have a zoom that could be controlled from the ground (not necessarily with my transmitter)?

Just getting some ideas. The guys I'm working with are interested in it...
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Old Feb 20, 2009, 09:11 PM
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Another quick question...

I'll be using 72mhz for this first version since I don't have a 2.4 radio yet. What would be best for the TX/RX... 900mhz or 1.2ghz? I'll be switching to 2.4 for the radio system later.
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