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May 31, 2006, 09:40 AM
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chrisgood's Avatar

New AP Plane Design and Inexpensive Digital Camera Comparison

I started a digital camera comparison several months ago in this thread but had not flown all the cameras to provide aerial photos for comparison. I have those photos now from my recently completed aerial photo plane, and I also wanted to share the design of that plane. I designed it to be tough and easy to build, and can be powered with just about any electric motor, and carry any digital cam less than a pound.

The wings are made from pink foam from Home Depot. The airfoil is MH44, constant chord to the tip breaks at the polyhedral joints, and then tapered to the tips. There are CF arrow shafts for strength glued into channels with Gorilla Glue. The wings come apart for storage and are joined by a 12" long, 1/4" diameter steel shaft that runs into each half of the wing, with a small brass stop soldered to the steel shaft in the center to keep it from sliding into either wing half.

The wings are covered with one layer of 3/4 oz fiberglass cloth and Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic, then several layers of spray paint. The right wing tip is white (top and bottom) and the rest of the wing is black, the best color for visibility (IMO).

The fuselage is EPP foam from the packing material around a TV, and the V-tail is built-up from 1/4" balsa. The tailboom is another CF arrowshaft, and it runs through the EPP fuselage (glued with Gorilla Glue again), where it is epoxied to the hardwood engine mount. The two mini-servos directly drive the elerudders with fiberglass shafts, and the fuselage has a cutout at the CG with an angled camera mount. It has felt on the downward-facing side to protect the back of any camera up to 5" long and 4" high, which can be secured with double-sided Velcro strips wrapped around the camera and mounting board.

I test flew the plane two weekends ago in very heavy winds to check it out, but did not fly any cameras until Memorial Day weekend. Sunday and Monday were great and I flew 5 different digital cameras that I had modded to trigger remotely via a spare RC channel. I did not worry too much about how pretty the planelooks, even though I firmly believe that good looking planes fly much better than ugly planes. This thing climbs and glides better than I ever hoped. The wing is not clean by any means, but a one minute power on climb yields 10 minute glides easily in calm air. That is with a fixed 12x6 prop and carrying a camera. I went with a V-tail to simplify construction, but the next time around I will go with a removable full flying stab for easy transport, like my Gentle Lady detailed here

Two of the cameras I flew this weekend use MR RCCam's CamMan PIC, and the other three use a variant that I wrote that has an auto-timeout feature. All the details on my cameras are at, and the PIC switch information is at If you want to modify any of your own cameras to do this, please take a look at these pages listed for the complete descriptions on the modifications required for each camera.

There are pics from each camera shown below, and these were all taken over the RC Modelers of Baltimore (RCMB) flying field on 28 and 29 May 2006. The five cameras I flew this last weekend I have bought over the last few years as test cameras, and I no longer need them for my aerial photo work. If anyone would like to buy these, I am going to list them for sale in the "Aircraft - General - Miscellaneous (FS/W)" forum.
Last edited by chrisgood; Jun 03, 2006 at 11:39 AM.
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May 31, 2006, 09:41 AM
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chrisgood's Avatar
Argus DC3640 3 MP, 2.5 oz, built in 16 MB memory, can take SD memory cards, powered by 2 AAA batteries, also has a analog video out connection that can be feed into a TV transmitter. Full details can be seen at\

EDIT: 5Jun06 - I adjusted the manual focus and changed the brightness setting on the Argus. I took more photos this afternoon at the field and the photos are much sharper and better balanced.
Last edited by chrisgood; Jun 05, 2006 at 09:37 PM.
May 31, 2006, 09:41 AM
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Flatfoto 3, 3 MP, 1 oz, built in 16 MB memory, can take SD memory cards, powered via the shutter connection to the RC receiver. The built in single cell lipo battery (~100 mah) had a very short life, so I removed it and the Flatfoto is powered from the RC receiver. This is the smallest, lightest 3 MP digital cameras I have found. Full details can be seen at
May 31, 2006, 09:42 AM
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chrisgood's Avatar
Ritz Dakota 1.3 MP, 4 oz, built in 16 MB memory, single use digital cams that have been modified to be used over and over, powered by 2 AA batteries. I am able to get 60 - 70 pics on these before they run out of memory; it depends on the complexity of the images. After downloading the images via the USB connection, which has been added to each camera, clear the memory and you are ready to go for 70 more. Full details can be seen at

Dakota #1
May 31, 2006, 09:43 AM
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Dakota #2
May 31, 2006, 09:43 AM
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Dakota #3
Jun 01, 2006, 05:00 PM
w5kfg's Avatar
Nice camera plane and photo's

Do you have any drawings and specs of your plane that you would like to share with the group
Jun 02, 2006, 12:48 AM
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HELModels's Avatar
I'm curious about the plane too. I'm wondering why the tail has such a broad chord instead of being stretched out in span? really just curious how that decision on shape was made. The camera info is great.
Jun 02, 2006, 08:24 AM
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chrisgood's Avatar
Camera plane specs are:

Himax 2025-4200, CC 18 ESC, JR R600 Rx, 2 Futaba S-133 servos

Fuselage length, back of elerudders to prop: 48"

Wingspan: 70"
Center chord: 8.5", tip chord: 7", airfoil: MH44 (see attached foil coordinate file)

Sorry , I don't have any drawings. I printed the rib templates with Compufoil and used a hot-wire to cut the cores from the pink foam. I took a piece of EPP packing material and cut it down to what looked about right for the fuselage. After that was cut out to the general shape I needed, I added the CF shaft for the tail and attached the wings to the fuse. With everything else in place, I made a WAG for the tail and drew up a simple outline for an elerudder, and built two. No reason for the big chord on the elerudder - it just happens to be what my mind said looked good right then. I had just put an elerudder on my Slow Stick night flyer about a week before and it has about the same shape/size, so it was probably fresh in my mind for what looked good.

If anyone wants details, I can make some very accurate measurements, but if it looks OK, it will probably fly. Nothing special regarding the CG - put it at the wing's thickest point. I did add some CF stiffeners to the CF shaft tailboom - it flexed a bit too much without them. They are two straight pieces of CF, CA'ed to the bottom left and right sides of the tail boom.

Jun 02, 2006, 09:28 AM
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quailbird's Avatar
Chris, I want to personally thank you for all your time and effort. It takes a lot of time to fly with each one of these and do the downloading and computer work.
Jun 02, 2006, 02:34 PM
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HELModels's Avatar
I agree, thanks for the efforts and info. I now see the SS pedigree in the tail. The big control surfaces also remind me of GP Yardbird - a SS knockoff. It looks like a good plane, or better yet, a Good plane.
Jun 02, 2006, 02:43 PM
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Ya, seems to be lotsa tail to me. Maybe all the better to see when it's nearing spec-out but it makes that lead hunk on the nose larger. Anyway, nice configuration. I was almost gonna start on something like it but with a taller camera-chest area and an A-tail but decided to do a single boom pusher when I noticed the bearings of my AXI are showing clear signs of failure. That would be from the dirt-dives on the initial flight of my last tractor configuration.

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