Once the model aircraft had been mastered, the next problem was deciding how to operate a camera by remote control. Initially, a tiny videocam, weighing around 50g. was fastened to the aircraft and it worked reasonably well, having no effect on the performance of the model. A free shareware programme was used to take stills from the video.
The thumb sized camera can run for an hour with its inbuilt memory and battery, and therefore needs no trigger, although the size limits the quality of the pictures. By flying the model into wind, it was found that it would climb over a spot like a kite to an estimated ceiling of maybe 1000 feet.
Having proved that the system worked, it was decided to find a better still camera for more detailed pictures. This posed some problems and is still being developed. At the moment, a Lumix digital camera is being used as it has the great advantage of a continuous shooting mode.
Once the button is pressed, it will take over 200 photos at the rate of 1/sec, thus removing the need for a radio control and the associated weighty components. It still weighs around 125g and slows the climb rate, but by mounting it at the centre of gravity inside the “cockpit”, it is manageable. Vibration can be a problem, but mounting the camera and motor on miniature rubber “iso-mounts” like a tractor cab will hopefully reduce this problem.
Given sufficient light and a fast shutter speed, the little Lumix is capable of taking useable shots, and the next step is to try to use the model in conjunction with the geophysical equipment to provide different views of a given feature on the ground.