By Erick Royer
Action cameras are the heart and soul of the multirotor revolution. There is nothing better than being able to capture HD video footage from the air on your multicopter. There are a many camera systems on the market, with the most popular being the GoPro Hero 3 line of cameras. If you own a GoPro, then you will not have a problem finding a commercially-available gimbal for your favorite multicopter.
In the first issue of MultiRotor Pilot magazine, we featured a new Sony Action Cam HDR-AS30V and found that the features, functionality and video quality were on par with GoPro Hero 3 line of cameras. It has a lot of bells and whistles, including GPS and WiFi at a significantly lower cost. This camera proved to be a perfect solution for just about any multircopter with the exception of how to mount it. The camera comes with a mount that will work if you wish to have it in a fixed position, however if you are looking for stabilized video, then you need to use at least a 2-axis brushless gimbal.
We searched and came up empty for a commercially-available solution. However, one Google search lead us to a gimbal on Thingiverse.com that was designed by a fellow named Hans (username: HaBoRC on Thingiverse.com). Fortunately for us he published his gimbal live on February, 10, 2014, just in time for the first issue of the magazine. I downloaded the STL files (see below) and printed it on my Ultimaker 2 3D printer using white PLA filament.
Once printed, I attached the motors and assembled the parts. I attached the camera and positioned it so the balance was as close to perfect as I could get it. Since the camera is very light (similar to the GoPro), the motors are not going to have to work that hard to give smooth stable operation. I attached the gimbal controller to the back of the main mount with double-sided tape. I will later print an enclosure for it to protect it. I will make a separate post when I have this designed. Once everything was together I needed to flash the software for the gimbal controller. The total weight of the system was the around the same as you would expect from any GoPro-type gimbal so you will not have any problems getting this system in the air on most DJI Phantom-sized multirotors or larger.
The gimbal controller is based on the Martinez board which is an open source development project there are often new Firmware (FW) updates available so you will want to be able to upgrade your board. Additionally, not all boards are shipped with current (or any) firmware so you may need to upload firmware upon receiving your board.
I suggest downloading the Martinez manual and read through it carefully before starting. While it is a bit dated, it does have some good information you may need.
Martinez Manual Download
You can also find information on these RC Groups forum threads:
Martinez board / Open source brushless gimbal HELP THREAD
HobbyKing has these files and others available if you click on the “FILES” tab at the bottom of this page.
COMPONENTS TO BUY
I used two brushless gimbal motors and a gimbal controller from HobbyKing:
2-Axis Brushless Gimbal Controller with IMU
PRODUCT ID: 9387000019-0 Price: $38.99 (International Warehouse)
Han’s design was perfect. The fit and alignment of all the holes was on par with any CNC-machined gimbal I have used. The nice thing about this design is that the pitch bracket that holds the camera is adjustable so you can position the camera for perfect balance.
THE PRINTED PARTS
I used the following settings on my Ultimaker 2:
- Infill – 50%
- Perimeters – 3
- Top/Bottom Layers – 3
DON’T HAVE A 3D PRINTER?
If you don’t have a 3D Printer but would like to get a mount, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you in touch with someone who can print one for you.
IN THE AIR
We attached the gimbal and camera to our Gaui 540H Hexcopter that we are reviewing for an upcoming issue and flew around shooting video to see how well it worked. The video footage was very stable. In fact, it was on par with the Tarot T-2D gimbal that we reviewed elsewhere on this site. There was a minor amount of jello, especially when the hex was bounced around a lot from the wind, but this could be eliminated by making a dampening bracket to attach it to the machine. I am presently working on one and will post it here once printed and tested. Beyond that, this gimbal worked as we hoped and now gives us the ability to use the Sony Action Cam in addition to, or in lieu of the GoPro.
THE FINAL WORD
2014 is going to be the year of the 3D printer… mark my words. It will be one of the most useful tools in your workshop, giving everyone the ability to make custom parts for their radio control machines. There are many on the market that start at around $500 so the average modeler will not be breaking the bank. In the case of having an awesome new camera like the Sony Action Cam and no way to stabilize it in the air, this is a perfect application for a 3D printer. The files are free and the electronics are less than 90 bucks, It took me 5 hours to print the parts on my Ultimaker 2. How can you beat that?
I wanted to thank Hans (HaBoRC on Thingiverse.com) for taking the time to design, test and share this gimbal with the world.