Aerial Photography and Video from RC Aircraft

This page shows the cameras I have used for aerial photography and video, the electronics I have made to remotely trigger the shutters on still digital cameras, and links to many of the aerial photos and videos I have taken at various spots around the world.  There are a few examples of those photos shown at the top of this page to whet your appetite.

There are two main ways to trip the shutter on a camera; electronically and with a servo.  The electronic path with a digital switch is much cleaner in setup, plus no extra weight is required for the servo.  The best switch setup I have found is the CamMan, and I have installed it in several cameras.  I also have a custom switch very similar to the CamMan using the same programmable integrated circuit (PIC), a 12C508.   My source code and executable for that PIC switch is available for free.

The price you can pay for a digital camera runs from $11 to hundreds. I cover all the cameras I have used or hacked, with tips on their use and detailed photos of exactly where to solder and where to get the software you will need.  Finally, at the bottom of the page are the planes and ground equipment I have used.


Charleston, West Virginia

RCMB, Maryland

Huntsville, Alabama

Joshua Tree, California

Yuma, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Chiricahua, Arizona

Arches, Utah

Canyonlands, Utah

Juccasjarvi, Sweden





pencam_mega.jpg (4121 bytes)
Aiptek Mega Pencam
Cost: $30
1.3 megapixel : 1280 x 960
Memory: Fixed 32MB
pencam_sd_tn.jpg (2546 bytes) Aiptek Pencam SD
Cost: $30
1.3 megapixel : 1280 x 960
Memory: SD
pencam_trio_ii_outside_tn.jpg (13667 bytes) Aiptek Pencam Trio II
Cost: $25
.3 megapixel : 640 x 480
Memory: Fixed 8 MB


Aiptek Pencam aerial photos, 2004
  Hunt Valley, Maryland, June 2004
  RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, February - June 2004
  Sparks & Hereford, Maryland, February – June 2004
  Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, June 2004
Location in Google Maps
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Aiptek Pencam aerial photos, 2005
  New River Gorge, West Virginia, May 2005
 
Carr Canyon, Sierra Vista, Arizona, June & August 2005
 
Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona, June 2005
 
Coronado National Monument, Arizona, June 2005

  Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, June 2005
 
Cherohala Byway, Tennessee & North Carolina, July 2005
 
Chicamagua Dam, Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 2005

  San Diego, California, September 2005
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Aiptek Pencam aerial photos, 2013
  SEFF, Americus, Georgia, April 2013
  Joe Nall, Triple Tree Aerodrome, South Carolina, May 2013
  RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, August 2013
Location in Google Maps
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flatfoto_front_tn.jpg (5574 bytes) Radio Shack FlatFoto 3
Cost: $30
3 megapixel
Memory: Fixed 16MB + SD
camcorder_final_1_tn.jpg (7565 bytes) CVS Digital Camcorder
Cost: $30
Resolution: 320x240 to 640x480
Memory: Fixed 128MB
25 - 45 minutes record time
Moved imager to allow for less drag when installed on plane.
 argus_outside_2_tn.jpg (5663 bytes)  Argus DC3640
Cost: $50
3.1 megapixel
Memory: Fixed 16MB + SD
 dakota-classic.jpg (4705 bytes) Ritz One Time Use Dakota
Cost: $11
1.3 megapixel : 1280 x 960
Memory: Fixed 16 MB
 


Flatfoto 3, CVS Digital Camcorder, Argus DC3640, Dakota, 2005 - 2006
Ground Photos Comparison : Aptek Pencam SD, Flatfoto, Argus DC3640, Dakota - November 2005
Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona, March 2006  posted @ RCGroups

Camera Plane Details & RCMB Aerial Photos, May 2006 - Flatfoto, Argus, Dakota
Dakota Setup Information,  May 2006

Location in Google Maps
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E317_front_ready_to_go_tn.jpg (4901 bytes) HP E317
Cost: $88
5 megapixel
Memory: Fixed 16MB + SD
12c508_switch.jpg (8434 bytes) PIC 12C508 Switch
Cost: $1 each + free software
$20 for hardware for programming
Controls most digital cams; modify it to what you need.
Includes PIC development tutorial.
Based on
CamMan.


HP E317 aerial photos, 2006
  Camp Woodward, Pennsylvania, June 2006
  Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, June 2006  posted @ RCGroups

  Charleston, West Virginia, Summer 2006
  Sistersville, West Virginia, Summer 2006

  Sparks, Maryland, Fall 2006
  RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, Fall 2006
  Orlando, Florida, December 2006 (2 flights)
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HP E317 aerial photos, 2007
  Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, June 2007 Location in Google Maps

HP E317 aerial photos, 2008 
 
  Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, March 2008  posted @ RCGroups
  Sierra Vista, Arizona, July & August 2008
  Fort Huachuca, Arizona, July & September 2008
  Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona, July 2008
  Fort Bowie, Arizona, August 2008
  Hunt Valley, Maryland, October 2008
  Coronado National Monument, Arizona, December 2008
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HP E317 aerial photos, 2009
  All over the United States on business travel & vacation, June - August 2009
    07 June 2009 – Hereford, Maryland
    08 June 2009 – Huntsville, Alabama
    09 June 2009 – Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, Alabama

    20 June 2009 – Chicamagua Dam, Tennessee
    27 June 2009 Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
   
28 June 2009 White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
   
28 June 2009 Carr Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Sierra Vista, Arizona
    29 June 2009 – Ft Huachuca Shadow flight-line, Arizona
    04 July 2009 – San Pedro River, Cochise County, Arizona
    0
4 July 2009 – Tombstone, Arizona
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4 July 2009 – Coronado National Monument, Arizona
    0
4 July 2009 – Parker Canyon Reservoir, Arizona
    05 July 2009 – Carr Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Sierra Vista, Arizona
    0
6 July 2009 – Ft Huachuca Shadow flight-line, Arizona
    0
9 July 2009 – Ft Huachuca Shadow flight-line, Arizona
   
12 July 2009 – Coronado National Monument, Arizona
    19 July 2009 – Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona
    25 July 2009 – Schnebly Hill Road, Sedona, Arizona
    27 July 2009 – Red Rocks National Conservation Area, Las Vegas, Nevada
    28 July 2009 – Lake Meade National Recreation Area, Nevada
    30 July 2009 – Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, California
    05 Aug 2009 – Bear Lake, Utah
    08 Aug 2009 – Tower, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
    09 Aug 2009 – Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming
    16 Aug 2009 – Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

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  RC Flying Field, Charleston, West Virginia, April 2009
  RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, September 2009
  Skull Valley, Utah, December 2009 (2 flights)
  Park City, Utah, December 2009
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HP E317 aerial photos, 2010
  Italy and France, August 2010
    Stelvio Pass, Italy
    Saturnia, Italy
    Burchio, Italy
    Avaray, Loire River Valley, France
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  University Park, Huntsville, Alabama, April 2010
 
RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, August 2010  posted @ RCMB.org
  Arches National Park, Utah, September 2010
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HP E317 aerial photos, 2011
  Joshua Tree National Park, California, January & April 2011
  Laguna Mountains, California, January & May 2011
  KOFA, near Castledome, Arizona, January 2011
  Martinez Lake, Arizona, February 2011
  Ice Hotel, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, February 2011
  Yuma, Arizona, April 2011
  Niagara on the Lake, Canada, July 2011
Location in Google Maps - January , April
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HP E317 aerial photos, 2012
  Canyonlands National Park, Utah, March 2012 Location in Google Maps


         
Sony Bloggie - two versions



Sony Bloggie HD aerial video, 2010
  RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, 10 November 2010
 
RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, 13 November 2010
Location in Google Maps
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Sony Bloggie HD aerial video, 2011
  Lake Havasu, Arizona, 22 January 2011 Location in Google Maps
  Joshua Tree National Park, 23 January 2011 Location in Google Maps
  Yuma, Arizona, 11 April 2011 Location in Google Maps
  Vidsel, Sweden, 28 June 2011 Location in Google Maps

Sony Bloggie HD aerial video, 2012
  Canyonlands National Park, Needles District, Utah, 3 November 2012  Location in Google Maps
   

  

GoPro Hero 3         Turnigy 2K HD-Cam 



GoPro Hero 3 HD aerial video, 2014
  RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, 23 February 2014
 
RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, 17 August 2014
  West of Castle Dome Peak, Kofa NWR, AZ, 21 November 2014 (2 flights)
 
West of Castle Dome Peak, Kofa NWR, AZ, 22 November 2014 (2 flights)
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GoPro Hero 3 HD aerial video, 2015 
  Martinez Lake from west side of Colorado River, north of Yuma, Arizona, 07 February 2015
 
Confluence of Colorado River and Gila River, Yuma, Arizona, 08 February 2015
 
West of Castle Dome Peak, Kofa NWR, Arizona, 09 February 2015
 
Martinez Lake from east side of Colorado River, north of Yuma Arizona, 10 February 2015

  Valley Of The Gods, Utah, 16 February 2015 (2 flights)
  RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, 29 March 2015
 
McPhaul Bridge over Gila River, Yuma, Arizona, 13 April 2015
 
Mittry Lake, Yuma, Arizona, 14 April 2015 & 23 April 2015

 
Adair Road RC Flying Field, Yuma, Arizona, 16 April 2015 & 21 April 2015
 
Palm Canyon, Kofa NWR, Arizona, 19 April 2015
 
Lake Havasu, Arizona, 19 April 2015
 
Confluence of Colorado River and Gila River, Yuma, Arizona, 22 April 2015 & 16 May 2015

  Picacho State Recreation Area, California, 17 May 2015 (2 flights)
  West of Castle Dome Peak, Kofa NWR, Arizona, 18 May 2015
 
Fortuna Foothills, Yuma, Arizona, 19 May 2015
  Fortuna Foothills, Yuma, Arizona, 04 & 08 June 2015

  Castle Dome Peak, Kofa NWR, Arizona, 05 June 2015
 
Lake Havasu, Arizona, 06 June 2015
 
Slot canyon at Senator Wash, California, 07 June 2015
  Ferguson Lake, California, 07 June 2015 (2 flights)
  The Slot, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California, 14 June 2015

 
Summersville Lake, West Virginia, 05 September 2015
  RCMB Flying Field + RCMB Fall Picnic, 19 September 2015
 
Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, 17 October 2105
 
South of Mountain View, Wyoming, 18 October 2015
 
West of Kanab, Utah, 23 October 2015
  Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah, 23 October 2015
 
RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, 08 November 2015

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GoPro Hero 3 HD aerial video, 2016
  Ohio River, West Virginia, 26 March 2016 (2 flights)
  RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, 17 April 2016 (2 flights)
  Petersburg Battlefield National Historic Park, Five Forks, Virginia (2 flights)
  Earls, Virginia, 9 & 10 May 2016
  RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, 28 May 2016
  Slot canyon at Senator Wash, California, 15 August 2016 (FPV)
  Adair Road Flying Field, Yuma, Arizona, 27 August 2016 (FPV)
  Kofa Range, Arizona, 29 August 2016 (FPV)
Location in Google Maps - flight #1, flight #2
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Turnigy 2K HD-Cam HD aerial video, 2016
  RCMB Flying Field, Maryland, 25 June 2016
  The Slot, Anza-Borrego State Park, California, 14 August 2016 (2 flights)
  Pacific Crest Trail, Laguna Mountains, California, 14 August 2016
  Ferguson Lake, California, 15 August 2016
  Yuma, Foothills, Arizona, 16 & 29 August 2016
  Colorado & Gila Rivers Confluence, Yuma, Arizona, 16 August 2016
  Dry Fork Slot, Grand Staircase - Escalante NM, Utah
 
Hole In The Rock, Grand Staircase - Escalante NM, Utah
  Mexican Hat, Utah, 22 August 2016
  Sedona, Arizona, Schnebly Hill Road, 22 August 2016
  Martinez Lake, Arizona, 27 August 2016
  McPhaul Bridge, Gila River, Yuma, Arizona, 27 August & 7 September 2016
  Yuma Territorial Prison, Arizona, 28 August 2016
  Mittry Lake, Yuma, Arizona, 31 August 2016 (2 flights)
  Lake Havasu, Arizona, sunset, 3 & 4 September 2016
  Mill Canyon Spring Road near Mt Timpanogos, Utah, 18 September 2016
  Kane Springs Creek Canyon, Moab, Utah, 29 September 2016
  Corona Arch Trailhead, Moab, Utah, 29 September 2016
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Aerial Photography & Video - Aircraft and Ground Equipment



Klingberg Wing x2 : This was my first large flying wing, which I built in 1990. It was 11' across and flown for a long time on an OS 61 engine. I converted it to electric and flew it that way, both tractor and pusher. I mounted my first digital camera, an Olympus D450, in it in 2000, with a servo to close the shutter.  The images were not good, so it only flew a couple times like this.

Olympus D450
Cost :  $250, 1.3 megapixel, 1280 x 1024, memory: Smartmedia 8MB to 128MB

Gentle Lady : Kit built, modified wing and empennage.  I added dual flaps / speed-brakes to each wing and replaced the stock tail with a removable full-flying horizontal stabilizer.  Everything came apart to fit into a box as checked luggage on commercial flights.  This carried the Aiptek Pencam SD.  Speed 400, 3:1 planetary gearbox, 11x6 folding prop, 15 amp ESC, five channels [ rudder(1), elevator(1), flaps(2), camera shutter, throttle (ESC)]


Astro Challenger : Kit built wing and empanage, body from scratch. This carried the Aiptek Pencam SD.  Speed 400, 3:1 planetary gearbox, 11x6 folding prop, 15 amp ESC, four channels [ rudder(1), elevator(1), camera shutter, throttle (ESC)]

Camera Plane #1 : The original fuselage was thrown away, but the wings and tail lived on in the improved Camera Plane #2.  This carried the HP E317 camera. The two elerudders were secured by nylon screws and were removable for travel.  20x40 brushless inrunner, 6:1 gearbox, 18 amp ESC, four channels [elerudders(2), throttle(ESC), shutter]

Camera Plane #2: I took the wing, empennage, motor, and speed control from my original camera plane #1 above and built this new version.  It used twin booms so it had a much stiffer tail assembly, and it had room for a Sony Bloggie HD digital video camera looking out the nose, and the HP E317 digital still camera looking out either side under the wing.  The whole thing came apart into small pieces to fit in small box for traveling, and the full foam fuselage protected the camera much better than camera plane #1. Four channels [ elerudder(2), throttle(ESC), shutter]

Camera Wing #1: Made from a wing set for Great Planes Slinger Flying Wing ARF.  This carried the HP E317 camera, which could be mounted looking down or forward.  EPP center section added to hold camera, battery, motor, ESC, and receiver. Originally powered by Himax inrunner and gearbox.  Later converted to a 450 outrunner and 40 amp ESC for NightWing version, four channels [elevons(2), throttle(ESC), shutter]

Camera Wing #2: Almost the same design as Camera Wing #1, but the HP E317 camera looked to the side instead of ahead or down.  Made from a second wing set for a Great Planes Slinger Flying Wing ARF.  EPP center section added to hold camera, battery, motor, ESC, and receiver. I took both camera wings with me all over the US in 2009, on an extended work trip and vacation for 10 weeks and over 12,000 miles of driving.  The best aerial photos from that trip are here at RC Groups.  Originally powered by Himax inrunner and gearbox.  Later converted to a 450 outrunner and 40 amp ESC for NightWing version,  four channels [elevons(2), throttle(ESC), shutter]

F-27 Stryker : EPP foam, The carries the Aiptek Pencam SD, with the camera looking out the side of the nose.  I will fly this plane just about anywhere, since it is almost indestructible.  2410-09 outrunner and 18 amp ESC, three channels [ elevons(2), throttle (ESC) ]

Blue Wing #1 : two meter wingspan, 480 outrunner, 40 amp ESC, one HK 401B gyro on each elevon servo, each tilted separately to allow stability on both pitch and roll axis for each servo, includes mount for GoPro camera.  These two flying wings are made from Bluecor foam.  They are over 2 meter wingspan and the main strength comes from carbon fiber inlays on the foam spars and cross bracing.  Photos of the construction are here, here, and here.

Night Wings w/ Camera :  Camera Wings #1 and #2 from above both have new center sections, and are covered with LEDs for night flight.  In addition to the LEDs, Night Wing #1 has a mount to hold a GoPro, and Night Wing #2 has an internal compartment to hold a Sony Bloggie HD video camera.  FLOWN

Video Downlink
909 Mhz, 1.2 Ghz, 2.4 Ghz, and 5.8 Ghz Transmitters & Receivers
RF amplifiers
CCD and CMOS cameras
TV monitors and head-mounted displays - FPV flying