Before I put the Sony DSC-H10 on my Thunder Tiger Mini-Titan model helicopter I didn’t even bother to look up it’s weight but I knew it was hefty. I was just searching for some lighter cameras today and looked up the DSC-H10. It turns out the Sony weighs in at 13.4 ounces w/battery. That’s about 0.75 pounds. Thinking about it, the Mini-Titan did pretty good with all that weight. The helicopter, fully equipped weighs in at about 26.25 ounces, or about 1.64 pounds. (with a couple additional items, it’s fair to say this helicopter weighs 1.75 pounds without a camera.
The good part is I was only about 3/4 way up the collective/throttle stick so it definitely had the power to lift this, though at a high current demand which is not good for batteries and other things. I have been shopping around (window shopping mostly) for a smaller camera to mount to the heli so that I could record some more ‘natural’ flights than just hovering around.
While looking at cameras I found the Canon Powershot SD780 IS. This camera is a 10MP still camera which offer tons of features, additionally it will shoot 30fps video at a 1280×720 resolution. Additionally this camera weighs in much lighter at 5.6oz including batteries(.35 pounds) it’s quite a bit lighter than the Sony Powershot DSC-H10, by almost 1/2 pound.
Additionally I could strip weight from the helicopter with a few changes. I could remove the flight data recorder which weighs about 0.7 ounces (not a big gain). I could switch over to my ultralight(very light) Berg 7 channel receiver and use that instead of the 9 channel PCM receiver I use now. The current PCM receiver weighs about 1 oz, the ultra-light Berg receiver comes in at 0.33 ounces which would be another .66 in weight loss, so with those two items I could loose about one ounce off the heli, bringing the overall weight of the setup to around 31-32 ounces. Right in at 2 pounds not accounting for a custom vibration isolating mount.
By switching the current wood blades out for much more efficient carbon fiber blades and doing the same with the tail rotor blades I don’t think that moving a camera the weight of the SD780 IS would pose much of a problem. There’s also the possibility of re-gearing the brushless motor by one or two teeth on the motor pinion to lower the head speed and experiment more with loaded flight over 3D flight.
I do know there are a lot of ‘mini’ type spy cams and stuff like that out there, but I really detest low quality pictures and video those produce, and they’re really not much cheaper than a high quality point and shoot. If I’m going to go through the trouble of setting something like this up, I’m going to try and get the best I can, within a reasonable budget, to shoot some fun or information stuff. If you want to do high definition video recording from a mini-helicopter, perhaps your best choice is to use the GoPro HD Hero (not the HD 960) as it records excellent quality video and comes with a variety of mounting options.
I always seem to do this with projects, what should be fun ‘day off’ kind of stuff, go fly the heli etc, turns into a big project and then every day out for fun turns into a project to shoot interesting video, or do something interesting, etc. I still find it fun. But it’s like building a new PC fun vs doing jumps on a motorcycle fun. I may just have to pick up a second Mini-Titan at some point so one can be Wheee fun! and the other can be Tech Fun!.
The only unfortunate thing about shooting video from a helicopter this small is that they are not as stable as their bigger cousins. When a friend and I shot video using our heli’s with 6 foot rotor spans (as seen on my helicopter page) they produced some pretty stable output. Although it took quite some time to get everything set up right. But I guess I can accept that loss of stability as long as I can isolate the vibration in the helicopter and in the camera mount, I think the quality will still turn out pretty nice!
As usual, the big problem will be coming up with the funds to do this. I just blew $60 on a new transmitter RF module for my Futaba 9CHP transmitter, the module died on my attempt to fly a second time yesterday. Fortunately it died while I was on the ground. It has very odd problems though. If you take the housing off the module, the transmitter module still does not work unless you blow into it. I suspect an output transistor failed, and airflow lowers the temp back down low enough for it to begin working again.