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Old July 25th, 2005, 05:45 AM   #1
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Arial Videography for under $1000.00

I would prefer an RC helicopter to shoot arial footage but they are harder to fly and decent ones start in the thousands to buy. There is an interesting new RC plane with an optional wireless video package called the eyecam extreme(front mount) and an optional digital still platform (side mounted) all for under $1000.00. It is called the Predator from Draganfly and is promoted as the little brother of the real thing and it actually looks like it. These things are apparently creating worthy attention because they have been featured on several network TV shows. One of the best features is that with the optional lithium polymer battery, they claim you can fly for up to 1 hour, up to 50 mph and up to a mile away from the base. I think that this may be a very cost effective way for emergency management agencies to get arial views to look for missing kids in the first 30 minutes to an hour if they have wandered off. I have yet to see any POV video from the Predator, just product video. Isn't 2.4 GHz the same quality as X-10 cameras, which ain't all that great? These things may be a new alternative POV platform for reality TV shows to use and create some jobs for us. It's a whole lot cheaper than a $300-$500 a day full size helicopter or $10,000 a day Wescam gyro rig. We'll see.

The Predator
www.rctoys.com/predator.php

POV and Product Video Demos
www.rctoys.com/videos.php

Other very affordable flying machines
www.rctoys.com/products.php

Higher end RC helicopter with a pan/tilt video head
www.bergenrc.com/ObserverEB.asp

Video Demo of Heli-Cam
www.bergenrc.com/mpg/utsp.wmv

Last edited by James Emory; July 25th, 2005 at 12:53 PM.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 12:56 PM   #2
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James,
The dragonfly IS a viable alternative to RC helicopter (due to ease of flying) The stabilizing gyros (over manual skills) is a HUGE plus.
I have struggled (back in 94) for three months only to hover the heli (a few crashes each over $100 in parts not to mention the heartbreak to see ALL alignments down the drain) with the same intention (aerial footage), only to see it on CNN being done and doing well in LA. I dropped the whole idea.
It may seem worth going back to it. Even building a higher platform (if they don't have it) with a higher payload (on board camcorder with pan-tilt-zoom and 2.4 live video on the ground) The question is....(as always) what market and how much would be paid for such toy?....
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Old July 25th, 2005, 01:42 PM   #3
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I would definitely want something that hovers and the Draganflyer V is nice and affordable but its still not as stable as I would like when hovering, at least for video. It's perfect for simulating a bird's or insect's POV, such as a...... dragon fly, ha ha ha. I don't think any of these machines will perform well at all in high or maybe even moderate winds.

As far as live feeds for news casts, I don't know if there is microwave gear small enough to be lifted by these rigs. The Bergen helo was said to be able to lift up to 14 pounds. However, you could feed the stock 2.4 GHz video to a microwave or SAT truck and then they could feed it to the station. If I get the Predator, there is another higher end video system that I would consider installing for the absolute best video feed. Unfortunately, it costs 3 times more than the plane! But, the whole idea is no good if the video drops out. I'm definitely going to have to see some POV demo footage to see the quality of their 2.4 GHz system before making a decision.

Also, what about all of the other full size helos flying around. What if you crashed into one of them because they couldn't see your little bird and you brought down the big bird, not a good scenerio. I bet the FAA will get involved if this becomes a problem in the near future as it becomes more known, efficient and affordable. Can you just image 10 or more of these things buzzing around over an accident?

When you spoke of building a higher platform, did you not see the Bergen RC rig with the pan/tilt head as well as the demo video with the Utah State Patrol using it for assessing accident scenes? That shows that somebody is willing to spend some money to use this system.

Thermal imaging will be the next addition for these flying machines but until then, Maxx Lights is providing miniature navigation strobes and high intensity search lights.

www.maxxlights.com
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Old July 25th, 2005, 02:30 PM   #4
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The higher end 2.4 is not 100% free of broken signal either. Better yes, but not perfect. It will increase the range and strength of the signal, but the signal will still bounce and get (occasionally) ghost signals. For a live event (accident, etc) nobody will complain for the 1/5 sec image degradation(imo)

When I said building a bigger platform, I had in mind the 4 rotors of dragonfly but having piston engines( or one central and four distributions; belts or rods) The concept of four rotors is a lot more stabile than one and rudder (even with a piezo gyro) as in traditional R/C or the real deal. Two rotors is one of the most stabile platforms (and highest payloads) in use (that I heard of): http://dean504mp.home.att.net/qt16.jpg
Scale that one down and is as stabile as it could get and capable of high payload.

As for seeing them buzzing around like flies, not too soon. The electric ones could ... if they can increase the payload (based on high power/weight from Li Ion) but for the other ones.. (gas or oil/ether fuel) not a chance. They make a TON of annoying noise and smoke and they'd be shot down immediately (specially in Texas, lol) not to mention a potential deadly mistake of the operator or mechanical failure causing at least a great panic if not worse in crowded places (lol) Sorry but I can not help it remembering my adrenaline skyrocketing when the dam thing flew towards me and I had to jump on the ground to save my life (from being beheaded) I am laughing now, but back then..... it was not that funny..... (the blades go up to 18.000 rpm!!!!!!!)
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Old July 25th, 2005, 02:56 PM   #5
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I just got off the phone with Draganfly. They are located in Canada so if you're close, you could possibly check some of these systems out with no risk. They do not accept returns on used systems and have no stores in the U.S.. So, if you order a system, try it out and don't like it, too bad. That's not good.

They said in about a month that they are going to release a newer and more improved version of the Predator with advanced functions similar to the military version. It will fly longer, have a stronger radio and of course will cost more. I also asked about their current 2.4 GHz video package and he said that it is more of a line of sight system with a directional antenna. I'm thinking I would have to go with a higher end broadcast system that I mentioned earlier for it to be worth doing.

As far as engine noise. If this thing is as noisy as the other systems, it will definitely only be good for shooting b-roll.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 03:52 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Emory
They do not accept returns on used systems
no wonder...(broken hearts bringing back broken wings...) It is a luxury hobby...
I will look for a local dealer (they are in Saskatchewan) If they have it here, I'll look at it and report back.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 04:16 PM   #7
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Question: Can the FX1 or Z1 fit on the higher end model (the Observer EB?) If so, this would be great for an indie migrating to professionalism, crane shots without the crane!
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I wait for the day cost-efficient global shutter 60fps capable CMOS sensors emerge for use on major manufacturers' cameras. (Sony, Canon, etc.) Rolling Shutters are a plague.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 04:30 PM   #8
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Yes Dan. Please let me know what you find out. Thanks.

Jack, judging by that head, it looks like it could easily take those camera systems. But, I don't think it will be as stable as a jib unless it uses gyro technology like in the higher end Wescam systems that you see on most news and film helicopters. What you see now on these RC units is more for observation than for great photography. I am sure though, that I have seen a very high end RC unit with gyro head (bubble) in the past. I know that probably costs more than $10,000. I'm going to try to find out what is was.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 05:55 PM   #9
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James, you are right! $10,000 is what I was asked back in 1993?1994?for a big bird capable of lifting up to 25lb, and 6k or so for a smaller one. Both excellent built; five blades (three for stabilizing). I was 0.1mm close to get the big one (while learning to hover a $400 Hirobo) when I saw "my dream" finished on CNN and dropped the project. Do not get descouraged anyone but be aware:
http://www.heliguy.com/nexus/dangers.html
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Old July 25th, 2005, 08:04 PM   #10
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Ouch! I almost didn't scroll down and see the whelp on that guy's belly and the cuts on his legs. It looks like he got into it with a weed eater. That is yet another thing to worry about with these machines, liability. At least some of the props on the RC planes are in the rear.

What exactly did you see on CNN as far as the platform and how long ago was it?
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Old July 25th, 2005, 08:44 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Emory
What exactly did you see on CNN as far as the platform and how long ago was it?/Don't talk about it, just do it!
Well.... how can I tell you if you say "don't talk about it, just do it"? (and I told you already, I did it ten years ago already, and just when I thought I was doing well, I saw others doing it even better on TV, so I stopped doing it).
But... I'll tell you anyway: year was 1994 (?) and I saw a short clip with aerial images from the "thing". They were using an Arri 2c (back then) shooting 35mm and live video (two signals) one for the camera operator and the other one for the pilot. Two monitors, two remotes (one heli, another one for pan/tilt) I still have the clip on VHS (I recoded the program at the next broadcast) I am not sure if these are the guys:
http://www.hovercam.com/
since from those days to now, I have seen a few versions of the same thing at Showbiz in LA (1999 and 2000). One excessive use of it in "Twister", another shot in "Birdcage" and many, many more. See their credits.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 08:53 PM   #12
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Aaaaaha! Thanks for that link. I think that is exactly what I had seen before with that gyro bubble rig. The reason that I asked is because I thought you meant that it was used to cover a story for CNN but apparently you're saying that it was featured in a story on CNN.
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