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Old School AP: Using a GWS Slow Stick for Aerial Photography

glydr

How many letters do we ge
#1
A lot of people use fancy multi-rotors for AP. But when starting out I recommend old-school fixed wing.

Here she is; my primary Aerial Photography (AP) aircraft:

IMGP1128-large.jpg

Yep - that's a 36Mhz tx I'm holding there. Shows how old the photo is and how long I've had this plane.

Here is a more recent photo:

IMG_3272.JPG

Note the new tail. I had to replace the old one with a working one after a magpie attacked my plane! About 1/3 of the horizontal stab was torn off but the plane safely returned home. Try that with your tri-copter!

These are still available and quite cheaply too. A major US distributor has the kit available for $36.

Why should you use a slow stick for aerial photography? Well;

1. It's slow (that's good; means there is less movement for the camera to deal with when you take a photo)
2. It's wing is under-cambered (that's also good; gives it high lift and payload capacity for carrying a camera)
3. It's 'fuselage' comprises a stick (that's good for hanging a camera off and other modifications)
4. It's undercarriage is tall (gives a lot of space for the camera)
5. It's super-easy to fly

In fact if you are thinking about giving this aerial photography stuff a go I can highly recommend this aircraft. It is a lot cheaper than the multi-rotor craft, a lot easier to set up and despite its simple appearance can produce some quality images.

IMGP2014-large.jpg

For AP the SS needs some modifications.

Firstly, power.

Toss aside the brushed motor that comes in the box and buy yourself:

1. DT750 (~$11 and 79g)
2. TGY Plush ESC 25A (~$12 and 47g) - 18A could possibly do, but why would you when it's not that much more.
4. GWS 1147 SF props (~$5 and 93g)
5. 3S battery ~1800 (~$12 and 185g) the link shows the Rhino 1750 which balances the CoG nicely in my setup.

That's ~$40 and ~400g (which costs $10 shipping with another 100g up your sleeve). Total so far including kit is $86.

IMG_3267.JPG

Note the brace across the undercarriage. With camera loaded this thing gets heavy, so the brace prevents the undercarriage legs from doing the splits and scratching your camera.

IMG_3269.JPG

Note the timber cross-pieces attached to the frame with glued thread? The battery hangs there attached by velcro and rubber bands (bands go over the battery below and hook over the timber pieces).

Next modification is the camera mount:

I use an ASKMAN AP mount which I believe is no longer available.

IMG_3270.JPG

I love the tilt-servo of the askman mount as it lets me adjust the camera angle from the ground depending on where I'm flying in relation to the target. It also lets me lift the mount up level when landing so as to prevent scratching the camera.

Another great feature is how the askman mount 'hangs' from the fuselage enabling the camera to stay level while the aircraft is pitching and rolling. It works like this:

a570661-178-askman-ss-mount2.jpg
Photo credit: 'aragon' on RCG

The top disc it attached to the fuselage so the mount hangs under the aircraft. This 'donut' arrangement is free to move about on ball links in all directions. To stop the camera swaying about this contraption is stuffed with sponge-foam (like in your couch, not EPP!). I use a velcro-strap 'collar' to keep the foam in place as seen on the photo of my mount above.

Also, you will see the shutter mechanism which is a nylon bolt which pushes on the shutter button. I'm currently using a Canon Ixus 100is which takes shot after shot when the shutter is held down. The Pentax Optio S series also have this feature.

Without askman mounts on the market you could make your own. Or if I was doing it again I'd probably go and get this one from blue sky rc:

camera_mount01.jpg
Photo credit: bluesky rc

Whatever way you go note two important considerations:

1. Down angle; the camera has to face down somewhat as shown in the above photo. Make sure you get your wing out of the shot! Experiment to find what angle suits you (note how the blue sky item is adjustable)
2. Vibration isolation; the rubber foam (receiver saver in my case, stubby cooler rubber would also work or a mouse mat) seen on my camera mount helps isolate the camera from vibrations.

As for mounting, a nylon bolt screws into the tripod mount on the camera. Which way? Some people like to face the camera forwards; handy for video. I like the camera to point sideways for stills as you get to fly past the subject and take photos.

With airframe and mount done we are up to ~$110 (this assumes you bought a $20 mount from blue sky rc).

Now to choose a camera.

I'm very happy with my Canon (was ~$200 when purchased) and would buy an Ixus again if I needed to. I have had good results with Pentax Optio S4, S7 and S10 cameras. These are all compact point and shoot cameras in the 100 to 120g range which are easily carried by our DT750 powered slow stick. A friend here in Australia recently bought an Optio (S7 I think) on ebay for roughly $25 including post! So choose a model line, cruise the bay of e and start with a cheapy to experiment with.

Camera, plane, mount etc brings us to $135 (depending on what bargain you found on ebay!). Just need a couple of servos (say $10 worth) and a receiver (I use a $70+ AR7000, but use what you like as long as it is reliable - satellite rx recommended!).

In any case you could potentially get a good AP setup going with change from $150. I hope this thread encourages you to do so.
 

bicyclemonkey

Flying Derp
Mentor
#2
I love the Slow Stick! It's crazy how much this plane can lift. Here's my aerial video setup. I'm still using the factory 400c brushed setup with a 3s 2200 and 9x5 GWS prop.

IMG_1906.JPG

www.radicalrc.com has a bunch of awesome SS upgrades that make this plane even better. My favorite have to be the balsa tail and carbon fiber fuselage.

IMG_1838.JPG
 

ananas1301

Crazy flyer/crasher :D
#3
Thats cool man!

I keep thinking that for good AP you should a a Quad or a Tri like David has as they are the most stable and steady in air to shoot good pictures.

But I your pictures amazed be by their quality.
Also the ability of your system to pan and tilt etc. makes a whole lot easier with a cam like your. The ability to carry the weight as well.

Nice pics!
Thanks for posting!
 

glydr

How many letters do we ge
#4
Thanks Anas.

The radical tail looks good. I just sized mine up from the old tail and built it from balsa that I had already. Covering is laminating film with tape as an orientation after-thought.
 

bicyclemonkey

Flying Derp
Mentor
#5
yeah, the radical tail set was actually the first balsa kit i've built (since I was a kid anyhow). It was easy and it took me a few hours to cover lol.
 

Zach Scott

Junior Member
#6
Gonna maybe put a new tail on mine. Any advice on building one. I see that you have it attached with an L-bracket of some sort. Is that homemade? I have never done any covering is that hard or can i throw some duct tape on it ;).
 

Zach Scott

Junior Member
#9
Cool laminate seems fairly easy. What kind of hinges did you use. I think i will just samwich mount it. L-bracket seems a little overkill. Thanks for all the imput
 

bicyclemonkey

Flying Derp
Mentor
#10
I used monokote. If u have a hobby shop nearby just use what they have available. For hinges you can bevel the edge of the control surfaces and use an x-acto knife to cut slots for CA hinges. If I had it to do over again I'd just bevel the edges and use the monokote for the hinges since your covering the entire tail anyway.
 

Zach Scott

Junior Member
#12
got the elevator covered last night and gonna finish building the rudder tonight. I was thinking about the wing and was wondering if you guys found a better way to attach them than the rubber bands. Haven't had mine in the air in a while but they always seemed to be and issue if i didn't pile them on.
 

bicyclemonkey

Flying Derp
Mentor
#14
It needs to be dead calm...at least no more than 5mph. When I was first learning on my slow stick I crashed a lot b/c I would fly regardless of wind conditions. The first time I flew on a calm day was bliss. Perfect landings every time!
 

glydr

How many letters do we ge
#16
With some weight on board it can _handle_ some wind, but I wouldn't call this a pleasant experience!

Calm weather for beginners!
 

jetpackninja

More combat please...
Mentor
#17
Agreed- My slow sticks are significantly heavier than stock.
We go brushless with a 2200mah battery
Reinforce the fuse and the front wing support.
Brace the wing at the CG and in the wing joint.
Can be a challenge bringing it back in the wind, the undercamber of the wing tend to make it balloon with gusty conditions.

With some weight on board it can _handle_ some wind, but I wouldn't call this a pleasant experience!

Calm weather for beginners!
 

Zach Scott

Junior Member
#18
have broke more props on my ss than any other plane i own. Mostly because of gusts and i have been too stubborn to buy a prop adapter. I normally fly with a 1100 maybe i should switch over and see if that helps. Or just not fly on a gusty day.

What kind of reinforcing are you talking about?
 

jetpackninja

More combat please...
Mentor
#19
The fuse use an arrowshaft down the entire length of the fuse.
The wing you can fill the joint where it bends with Gorilla glue or hot glue.
We also do a brace at the CG to help keep the wings from folding.
I'll see if I have some pictures around.