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May 10, 2012, 03:06 PM
payne9999's Avatar

Flying the camera off-plane

I have had some success with taking video from my planes but vibration, prop interference and other issues have made it a struggle.

I am currently using inexpensive keychain cameras but I have seen some pretty nice images form other folks using them.

I am interested in flying the camera on a miniature flying wing or other stable platform behind or in front of the plane by suspending it on a piece of music wire.

I saw a video a long while back where it looked like a person had done exactly this. He had videos of his plane from in front as well as from behind and the camera was very stable. It looked as though he was being followed by another plane with a camera on board.

Recently I saw a camera being towed with a line but the camera was not tracking so well and you could see the tow line.

I would like to know if any of you out there know of some techniques to achieve this view angle in a stable way. Getting the camera off the plane seems like it would get rid of the vibe issue and the "jello" like video image.


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May 10, 2012, 03:21 PM
miniture aircraft pilot
rcshirt's Avatar
first, if you see my other inflights, the cameras are simply held on with velcro. it is more than enough to hold on a camera , even through a BLENDER manuver from a 3D plane.

the plane in the video is being controlled br rc.. but once we found the right speed we could let it fly on its own, with out input.

we are working on developing simple tow behinds that need nothing. so it can be towed by any aircraft.
May 10, 2012, 04:31 PM
So broke I can't pay attention
The best substance to use as a barrier that dampens the 'Jello effect' is called Moongel, it's used by drummers to isolate unwanted tones or vibrations, you can get it at music supply stores.
May 10, 2012, 06:32 PM
Just thumbing through...
victapilot's Avatar
Carbon rod tow
May 11, 2012, 09:31 AM
Citizen of the Universe
tenacious101010's Avatar
After much experimentation with isolating the video camera from ocillations induced by the gas engine, I realized the best video would come from being almnost totally isolated from the powered airplane which meant minimum contact with the running engine. This started my experimentation with towed video platforms. The first towed vehicle was a replacement Stryker wing built to have working elevons and a tow line release. Here a video of the preliminary testing and flights.

TRAC Inflight Video Platfrom (Part 1/2) (6 min 50 sec)
Last edited by tenacious101010; May 11, 2012 at 10:18 AM.
May 11, 2012, 09:42 AM
Citizen of the Universe
tenacious101010's Avatar
After studying the video and considering the results, I moved the tow connection further forward to the tip of the nose instead of underneath. The underneath position gave the Stryker way too high of an angle of attack. The video inproved greatly after this change. Here is a vidoe after the chance. We used a clear monofilament 60 pound fishing line. The sun was low, not great for this kind of video at the angles to the sun. You can see the sunlight glinting off the tow line.

P6E Hawk w/ Tow Plane Video (6 min 41 sec)
May 11, 2012, 09:48 AM
Citizen of the Universe
tenacious101010's Avatar
The next attempt was using black woven multi-strand fishing line, the light didnt reflect from it quite so much, the results were better. We also found the Stryker more stable when it was given some up trim. This not only stabilized it, but also kept the line more taught. I painted the area just in front of the video camera flat black, this helped the video quality. The sun really reflected off the white nose of the stryker and degraded the video quality. The Hawk also had been converted to electric power by this time.

strker front 1 (1).AVI (4 min 0 sec)
May 11, 2012, 09:53 AM
Citizen of the Universe
tenacious101010's Avatar
We experimented with faster ww2 planes doing the towing but the stryker was not set up for the higher speeds and it became very unstable. On this flight about halfway thru the flight, we set even more up- trim into the stryker and it was able to follow the tow plane without any operator inputs. This was the last time we flew the Stryker as a towed vehicle.

ham towed in flight video (11 min 23 sec)
May 11, 2012, 10:10 AM
Citizen of the Universe
tenacious101010's Avatar
I wanted to begin looking for a non-powered platform so I took a wing from a GWS ME-262, ground the engines off, removed the servos and added blocks so I could adjust and set the ailerons in any position I wanted and installed a tow connection. Takeoff stability was my biggest concern, but it did well and stabilized nicely. As the tow plane (Nexstar trainer) accelerated, the wing became more unstable and fluttered so bad the wing broke. The speed was excessive and this was not surprising that it broke. The next test was a foam rocket I bought and modified. I took off the bottom fin on the back and glued in a piecve of lead. I glued on the lower front a tube to attach the tow line. We flew it and it was constantly rolling. I removed the three front wings and flew it again. It was much more stable but has a slight back and forth rocking to it in flight. One great advantage of this as a towed vehicle is that as the speed of the plane changed in flight, the stability remained constant. I think there is a real possibility with this type of aerodynamic shape, it just needs more work. I want to fly it again, but without the vertical stab this time to see if that helps any. Since the yaw will be controlled by the airplane tow line, I dontknow why it would need the rudder. I hope these experiences and experiments help otehrs to avance this and improve on the towed video vehicle concept. I think the tow line will always be visible to some extent but at the vehicle being towed gets more stable, the size and strength of the line will allow use of smaller and less visible material. If you have tried anything like this, share the results,good or bad. Together we will be able to come uop with something very feasable.
Last edited by tenacious101010; May 11, 2012 at 10:16 AM.
May 11, 2012, 04:07 PM
Citizen of the Universe
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Payne, I have tried the rod to attach to the plane being videoed, but I found when I put the camera behind and above the plane with carbon fiber rods, I really affected the CG. On 1/5 scale or larger aircraft, this wont be such an issue. Maybe even some smaller (maybe 60 size or low wing loading) aircraft could possibly handle the extra weight. I did use a single rod like a previous post did, the rod was at an angle upward and rearward but the single rod bounced and swayed too much. I added two carbon fiber rods to support the camera better and it did OK. It still wasnt what I was looking for. I wanted a unit that I could attach to almost any airplane, the mounting/attachment would be universal. Thats another reason I thought the tow option was the best compromise. Taking what I have learned, I think its probably still the best option. My new towed video platform is towed, but I will be using a much smaller tow line and several other changes. I am not testing this on high speed planes what I am doing is meant for slower planes like WW1 biplanes. After I get this as good as I can, then I will attempt to make a tow vehicle that will be able to handle higher speed planes. Here is my latest tow vehicle. Its just a foam glider from Wally world. I inserted carbon fiber rods from the front and rear of the fuselage and glued them in, the rods go the length of the fuselage and the front tow provision is integrally tied to that rod and the foan fuselage. I also used CF rods along the leading edge of each wing, they meet at the center of the wing in the fuselage. I then made my own horiz stab and elevator out of 3/16 ply. I gave it a guestimate of how much up elevator and glued it in place. Probably would be better to have made the elevator hinged and adjustable. I think mounting the camera close and parallel to the tow line makes the line more visible. I made a tripod to mount the camera on so its maybe 10 inches above the fuselage, now its not so close to the tow line. I also am going to use a length of much smaller tow line and see if it can withstand the stresses.
In predicting what might be the weak part of this design, I would have to say, using this kind of foam is the weak piont, the wings shearing off if the vehicle gets in a high angle of attack. Also, the high camera mount/high center of gravity will very likely make this silly thing want to fly inverted which will destroy it when trying to land. I will add some takeoff/landing skids on the bottom and add some weight as low as I can get it. Maybe a set of small foam wheels and weight would be the way to go. It will be ready for testing as soon as I get a chance to take it to the field.
May 15, 2012, 12:59 PM
Citizen of the Universe
tenacious101010's Avatar
Looks like Payne lost interest but I like the subject matter. I would like to explore this subject further and maybe this will help any otehrs that would like to experiment with in-flight video of their planes. Here is a video I thought interesting.

Parkzone T-28 Camera Mount test #2 808 Spycam (5 min 39 sec)

May 15, 2012, 01:03 PM
Citizen of the Universe
tenacious101010's Avatar
Another interesting approach to video in-flight.

Parkzone RC Spitfire spits out prop and lands deadstick (4 min 47 sec)
May 15, 2012, 01:04 PM
Citizen of the Universe
tenacious101010's Avatar
And yet another way to get video.

Parkzone Habu Nose camera 2 feet in front of nose (2 min 37 sec)

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