I was sitting here at home today, upset that another thunderstorm thwarted our lawn mowing efforts by drenching the lawn which would surely take the rest of the day to dry before I could mow it. Well, you know, it wasn’t quite dry enough to mow, but there really wasn’t much else going on.  As an aside I was also trying to find a way to bury the guilt of turning off my work cell phone for this first weekend since ever.

Then it struck me, I could mount a camera to the Thunder Tiger Mini-Titan helicopter and play around a little bit. While it would be a bit of a cheesy setup considering it’s a 450 sized helicopter, I don’t have a lot of resources at the moment and the camera is relatively huge, it still seemed like a fun thing to do. I’ve done this with my bigger helicopters when I had them and the funds it usually turned out pretty well.  You can probably find some videos on my rocket site that were taken from R/C helicopters.  Back when those were shot, though, a friend and I used a Bergen Intrepid EB gasser heli that was powered by a modified gasoline motor. Similar to what you might find in a good quality weed eater, but with some modifications. That helicopter also had a professional pan/tilt camera mount, etc. which this will not be.

So, I’m sitting at home, I have an R/C Helicopter, the Ace Mini-Titan that I’ve recently modded with a scorpion 2221-8 and Castle Creations Phoenix 45 speed controller and added a couple of shiny metal bits to.  Then I have my trusty Sony DSC-H10 8 megapixel still camera which can shoot reasonable lower quality video.  But how do I mount a camera to my helicopter?  Since I don’t have the money to buy a nice GoPro HD Hero instead I ran over to the dining room, which, truth be told, is our in-house tool and ‘project stuff room’ and started rummaging around for things to make a camera mount of. I settled on a U shaped drive bay plug from an old computer case as the base of the helicam mount.

I drilled the flanges of the drive bay plug so they’d slide over the helicopter’s landing skids and drilled a hole for a screw that would connect to the camera’s mounting point. I mounted the bracket and with the careful application of top secret elastic and plastic compounds, rubber bands and zip-ties, and I firmly attached the bracket to the rest of the heli. I then mounted the camera. Here is what I ended up with.

Note: It is difficult to take a picture of your camera with your camera I discovered.  Unfortunately I did have to turn the work cell phone back on to take this picture, but I got it over with and it’s now off and away.

Because I needed more than one photo to make a ‘gallery’ and I am still figuring out photo sharing I decided to share with you my coveted picture of a turtle I took at the pond back behind work on the 25th.  I was actually trying to get a picture of the red fox who lives back there, but no luck. Enjoy the slime covered turtle! I love how they lift their heads way up when they’re looking around.

Click here to watch the Mini-Titan Heli-Cam Video

You can see it’s not the most fancy modification but it did work for the basic idea of a helicam. Some things worth noting are that the Sony DSC-H10 is a pretty heavy camera for it’s size, I was surprised that the heli was able to lift it without too much effort. The camera is also mounted to the right side of the helicopter which puts it slightly off balance, with just 3 clicks of left trim it was hovering solid with the camera attached.

In the video you can see there is quite a bit of vibration. This is due mostly to the fact that the camera mount was directly connected to the heli skid. To do it right you need very good dampers at all physical mounting points to isolate high and low frequency vibrations. While it’s not the greatest video it’s kind of fun to watch and a good result for a little amount of work.

As a side effect my LiPoly battery was quite warm but the Scorpion HK-2221-8 motor and Castle Creations Phoenix-45 speed controller both stayed on the ‘warm’ side.  The old aged LiPoly pack did puff up a tiny bit, but since it’s cooled it’s flat as a pancake again. It was an old battery and was showing signs of it’s age already.

The pack is 2.2Ah, rated at 25C so I should be able to pull around 55 amps from it!  I was a bit concerned that the flight with the camera may have drawn too much current, if only there were some way to know… Oh right, there would have been, but unfortunately my Eagle Tree eLogger v3 flight data recorder’s log memory was full so I didn’t get any of that information. I am going to post some comparisons of my stock motor/setup vs the new motor/setup so if you wanted to see data, check that post instead.

I really want to get one of those tiny video cameras that weigh next to nothing and would be much easier mount and setup. They’re not expensive so I might pick on up in a couple of months ones I get some cash in the bank again. So if you have a small digital camera that shoots video, maybe you can just make some fun and setup your own simple aerial heli-cam.

Since this post I did pick up one of those tiny video cameras. If you have a small spy-cam you might want to consider using that instead as they weigh much less, but the video quality can be a bit worse, this article was about using what was at hand. If you want to see a possible video camera setup for a small helicopter check out Ground and Aerial Videos from the Mini-Titan 450 .

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