Sony Alpha5000 APM triggered and geo-tagged

Hello all,

We at Airborne Projects are in the process of testing an integration of the Sony Alpha 5000 with the APM/Pixhawk with very good results so far and we are starting this thread to showcase and get feedback on a possible product.

The capabilities we have so far is to have the Pixhawk connect to a 53x25mm micro computer which then connects to the Sony Alpha (or actually most DSLR cameras). This way we listen for triggers from the Pixhawk and order the camera to take a picture and upload it to our micro computer. The images will be live Geo-referenced.

Upon landing there is a normal USB memory pen connected to this micro computer that has all the images by the APM ready for post processing, there is no need to cross reference the images with the Pixhawk logs.

Another cool trick we pulled is that we can configure the camera in the air or even see the live pictures on the ground. This way you can correctly figure the settings of exposure and ISO without the trouble of going back to the office. We plan to use this features as addons.

What do you think?

You can also find the original pictures that generated the mosaic in this link




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  • For those that want to keep things simple, cheap and light with top efficiency, and don't want to mess with usb cables (why inserting things in your camera and creating metal fatigue with time when you can do the same with infrared light without any contact?) then here's a link where you can buy it for Sony, Nikon and Canon for about 10 eurobucks, here's the link:

    I guess that those triggers are even open source and if you know about electronics you can even make it and program your LED to blink the IR light according to each camera's shutter code pattern. But for this price I'd rather just buy them in bulk.


    With high PWM it shoots picture, with low PWM it starts or stops filming, and with neutral PWM it waits orders, as simple as that, and you don't even have to bother with coding specificalities whether it's nikon, canon or sony, just plug it to a pixhawk channel, configure in mission planner that channel as shutter, and that's it!

    Heres the classic camera shutter configuration from the documentation of APM at


    Don't forget to have your camera activated infrared remote control. With Sony it works this way and with Nikon and Canon it can't be much harder than this too:

    To test it go to the Flight Data tab in Mission planner, right click on the map and chose Trigger Camera NOW. If the camera shoots a picture (make sure the LED points the camera's IR sensor at at least 2 or 3 meters away, but i prefer to just tape it next to the IR sensor), then it means the remote IR LED shutter is well configured and ready for work. If it starts a film, then just reverse the channel, and it'll start taking pictures.
    From this point when you make a mapping mission your camera will shoot only when it's needed. No more hiper redundant picture shot by interval of time, or complicated hacking to your camera. Just the right pictures at the right time, no more no less.

    By now all you need to do is prepare the Mission Planner to know your camera parameters and how to trigger the shutter only in the exact moment and here's the video explaining it:

    In the Trigger Method tab chose the CAM_TRIGG_DIST so the APM or Pixhawk gives the order to your camera to shoot the picture from the correct distance from the previous picture (it's the most efficient method).

    If your camera isn't listed at Mission Planner camera's list, fear not! Create your own Camera Profile, after all it's just an xml file underneeth it. You just need to know the basic camera specifications. I found mine here:

    but it's always better to cross check with other sources (yep the manufacturer too :P) to make sure it's right. In this case it's right! :)

    In my case (Sony A6000) the settings are as follows:
    3689688389?profile=originalSave it, give the name of your camera, and it'll join the "authorized" mission planner's camera list giving you every single detail of your mapping flight mission. Sweet!

    By now you are 100% ready to make mapping flight missions with full control of your plane and your sweet and trusty camera, and it costed by now only about 2 grams of payload with your LED camera shutter and 10 eurobucks plus shipping to your wallet.

    By now you must be thinking YAY! Love this, can't wait to start mapping missions like a pro! And I then I tell you! "STOP!", and you ask "Why stop? What's wrong?", and I tell you "But there's even more sweet news to you!", and you ask "But what can be better than all this info you just gathered in one post?" and I tell you "I still have to tell you how to have your missions limited by you plane/copter's authonomy and not by the camera's battery weak authonomy of about 400 pictures!"

    And now i'll proceed by telling you how to have the camera's authonomy to be able to make thousands and thousands of pictures tirelessly for about 12 eurobucks plus shipping.

    First, buy a DC coupler compatible with Sony's battery np-fw50.


    I've bought mine at Amazon and weights about 30 grams:

    If you have other cameras just google eg Nikon or Canon DC Coupler and buy it from the best price.

    To know more about the principles in using a dc couplers also known as "dummy batteries" with cameras watch this. It's easier then you imagine.

    In our case you'll power it to a ubec with around with steady 7.2V. Use a female connector in the ubec side, so you wont need to cut and adapt the dc couple plug. Don't forget to put a common LiPo battery or whatever capable of feeding the camera for the whole flight. After all that's the point we want!

    Additionally, if you want to FPV vertical videos (boring if it's the only camera) or want to pay attention to hundreds or thousands of pictures don't get blured (gosh, what nonsense!) instead of paying attention to flying, just buy this Micro HDMI to AV converter for 21 USbucks plus shipping at Hobbyking:


    As usual if your camera isn't compatible with this, find one that is.

    If you want to enjoy real FPVing with a frontal camera while piloting and then ocasionally check the mapping the mapping camera working right, you just need to buy a multiple camera switch controlable with a free channel in your radio, then buy this for 19 eurobucks plus shipping and weights about 2 or 3 grams.


    And that's it!

    The Advantages of using these parts to your mapping missions with APM and Pixhawk are as follows.
    - Dirty Cheap! Summing all parts (excluding the camera) used in this post it all costs around 60 euros;
    - All components are very reliable and are non-vital for plane in case of failure;
    - Light weight;

    - The LED shutter uses IR light and not wifi spectrum frequencies which are susceptible of interfering with other RF transmitters/receivers in your plane/copter;

    - You don't create metal fatigue with USB connectors, prologating your camera's life expectancy.

    - Tremendously increases the flight times of your mapping missions, increasing the covered areas per flight and thus being much more productive;

    - It's that easy to assemble and understand even to noobs or people who just want to do more mapping and mess around less with electronics;
    - You can georeference your photographs by using the mission planner tool as refered in this documentation with the much much much higher precision of the moment and position (and not estimated with the offsets method) where your camera was at the time of each picture was made;

    - It takes only a couple of minutes to have your picture files geotagged (not an advantage if you're a mapping professional and don't want to bother with dealing with flight logs, see below);

    - You don't have to mess around at all with your camera and thus voiding your manufacturers warranty. My camera survived warranty time and the extended warranty that I paid for (another waste of money) and it still works as good as new. (Thank you Sony for your outstanding products!);

    - You can quickly shuffle your camera to work mode and tourist mode without nobody noticing they are in fact the same camera;

    - If you have 800 eurobucks to waste, you can spend the difference with something else or invest it by improve your mapping station or whatever;

    The Disadvantages are:
    - It takes a couple of minutes more to have your pictures geotagged than the system presented in this topic;
    - If you have 800 bucks to waste, are a mapping professional and don't want to bother to spend a couple of minutes using the flight logs to geottag the images, then the topic's system of having your pictures geotagged in a pendrive or whatever might be simply awesome;
    - You don't get your manufacturers warranty void swapped by the anouncer's new warranty for a stripped, and if you crash it, it's as good as the manufacturer's warranty, i.e. zero;
    - If you want to buy a ready made system in one piece from one supplier instead of buing parts from several origins, the topic's option is the best;
    - There's no customer support and you're on your own if you chose the cheaper option, and that's a shame!

    One last tip:
    If you want to avoid blurried images and happen to have a good camera such as the ones refered here, use a very large memory card, set your camera to produce RAW+JPG images files simultaneously, you'll thank later, use manual mode and get used to change the shutter speed, apperture and iso values to reduce bluried, too dark or too light pictures, etc. With experience you'll find that sweet spot with those 3 variables to be used ideally in any weather conditions'. Don't use auto mode, not even when you use the camera in tourist mode because it's lame and unprofessional. ;)
    Read more about it here:

    In the next days I'll reveal in detail the hardware system, the workflow and the coding involved on how to do in real time extraction of pictures files from a Sony Alpha cameras, inject its timing and positional data from APM/Pixhawk, upload the already georeferenced files to the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, Meocloud or whatever that pleases you better), having those images prepared for data crunching in the office as they keep arriving, having the quality control of the (too blurred, etc) images checked in the office, preparing in the office a new flight mission to redo the pictures that failed the quality control with the same orientation and position (as possible) as the original ones, inject the new mission plan to the flight controller and proceed with the new mission, all that before the plane lands from the first mapping mission (that benefits already from the goodies that I explained above).
    For that, an interested person will only need to buy a raspberry pi 2 or 3, a broadband internet dongle, a wifi dongle and a few jumper conectors, an internet subscription, not to mention having one pilot in the field and at least another in the office to get the data and a good plane.
    Not considering the salaries of the pilot and the office dude, the plane, the camera, the internet subscription, a good local network service and the broadband dongle (prices vary too much from country to country to consider it), I believe that the hardware needed to implement this will cost around 60 to 70 euros. The sourcecode to make it possible will be free from the start, unlike some guys that like to use open source and then hide it from the comunity for.... reasons.
    So if anybody is interested in knowing how to do this too, stay tuned to diydrones in the next days.

    With best regards,
    Robert Monongo

    • Roger, your post is awesome. If you ever come to Portugal you are more than welcome in our company. We can show you some other cool stuff if you would like.

      Also its inspiring to see fellow Angolans kicking out. I imagine it's hard there and that the obstacles are hard but see the opportunity that the size of your country actually provides. Angola has lots of potential.

      Good luck

      Paulo Neves

    • Robert , I have installed dozen of Ir triggers for Uav's , the main problem with them is that in case or hard sun the camera will not shoot so the Ir led must be protected and kept in shade .Sometimes placing the ir led is tricky, not to far, not to much close.

      The other problem is that more and more camera manufacturers are removing all remote ports from their cameras, no more cable or IR , i.e. Canon 220HS a old ggod camera for IR mapping.

      The Sony Hdmi - AV converter you describe has a disavantage, it covers the Sony dataport connector , this is the reason why the last version of that converter has a Ir led on the board and a trasparent cable should bring enough ir light to the camera ir sensor for trigger it.

  • Can you control the 5100 exposure values or only dslr's and if yes what do you use on the ground to do so? Over what do you send the pictures to the ground for overview? maybe with your solution its possible to do this in mission planner in future. Whats the weight difference between striped and non striped a5100? Any chance that this will work with qx1 and sony rxr1 mark ii(we are considering them for new system for weigth and full frame + incredible resolution of the second but problems with shutter control and video out are realy awful)? Can you also ad pitch yaw and roll information and ground distance from range finder? Is the gimbal 3 axis  and whats the weight with motors controller etc.?

    I think that your module is very useful and interesting.

    • Hello letiidronletii

      We do not intend to modify MissionPlanner or know how to do it to make such a cool interface. Although if you can find a way to create thumbnails form the downloaded images in real time and parse the mavlink you could do it.

      For now we have also put the idea of stripping down the Sony Alpha, as we figured some details that do not look very favorable.

      The information of Yaw Pitch and Roll can be included in the tag but not in a standard way as the JPEG Exif standard does not have that tags reserved. I imagine that such information is set in the User Comment or a custom tag ID. Do you have any example of a picture with the tags you are mentioning?

      The distance from the range finder is the elevation right? If so its included.

      The gimbal we have in mind for now is 2 axis, pitch and roll, for aereal photography.

      Regarding the QX1 so far it's not possible to work with our system and progress is not going well. The RXR1 also has some problems, but now we don't have any to test with. Lot's of other cameras are supported though.

  • I've read this and I haven't yet unterstood what's new that you guys "invented" here.
    Is it geotagging? Being it "live"?
    Is it having a companion computer that "triggers" the photos and downloads the images and geotaggs them? Why not even uploading them live to dropbox or some other cloud service?

    Is it the "trick" of watching the live feed from the camera? Haven't you heard about FPV yet?
    This is all mapping 101 and it's all very well documented basically... everywhere!
    Here in Angola, where components are damn hard to get unless you smuggle them in my trips from Lisbon, you as portuguese know it very well, I started about in 2013 by using in my poor man's projects platforms a Sony A6000 triggered by a 10 euros tiny led trigger connected to pixhawk (by then it was an APM 2.5) and thus having all images precisely georeferenced.
    With the live feed from the A6000 its just as simple as connecting it to a cheap video splitter connected to the Vtx and voila, live feed when needed from the A6000 and when not needed back to the feed from the main camera just by pressing a button in the radio transmitter..
    Using a companion just for geotagging isn't that much of a deal either. Having the photos geotagged in realtime is interesting but using a companion just for that is preety much lame because a companion is a powerful tool for real time heavy duty image processing and some artificial intelligence and still have more than capacity to also live geotag images.
    The Sony alpha cameras have really weak batteries that get exausted in mid flight after 400/500 shots so I bought a 7 euros dummy battery (no need to strip the poor camera) connected to a ubec and problem solved, being the only limitation the memory card.
    I also would like you guys explain why your "new" system will cost (as you say in a reply) 800euros when anybody can do the same with less than 50 euros (camera excluded)?
    Let's see:
    1 led trigger: 10eur

    1 raspberry pi 2 (to keep it simple): 40eur

    1 dummy battery for camera: 10 eur (no need to void the camera's warranty)

    1 bec: 5eur

    Total: 65 euros
    A long way to your 200euros without camera and the 800 euros with the "stripped" (why?) camera.

    That in one of my most efficient planes I can cover a LOT of area.

    Anyway, don't think wrong of me if you think I'm bashing you, for you've actually made me very happy with myself for my own achievements by comparison with you, because being an individual in Angola (a s-hole), without support of generals or godfathers, just by myself, I'm at least 3 or 4 years more advanced than a portuguese startup with the full support of the European Space Agency Business Incubator Center. Way to go! 
    Do you know if that European Space Agency Business Incubator Center accepts africans? Because if positive, if they support in 2016 projects as outdated as 3 years, I can imagine they'll also support projects as outdated as 1 week.

    Welcome to 2013!

    Anyway, I wish you all best of luck with your "advanced" projects, and hope to learn something from you.

    Best regards,
    Roger Monongo

    • @Roger, technology is a great equalizer and allows idiots (like me) to do things I couldn't or wouldn't do otherwise. Creating a DIY solution that is dependable and has good performance requires a fair bit of knowledge, skill, time and tools. If any one of these is missing, then it fails. You obviously have these, but it's not necessary to resort to DIY snobbery. A lot of us have to resort to the despicable act of using money to compensate for the resources we lack. Embarrassing I know, but give us a break, the 'Anybody' group should still apply to us.

    • Have you bothered to read more than diagonally?
      What I propose is a ready made hardware and workflow system that is so easy and cheap that literally ANYBODY can do.

      If a poor black fellalive me, without godfathers moving the strings for me, surviving (but thriving one step by step) having left poverty line not much long ago in a bankrupt african country like Angola, with so much restrictions in terms of importing technology (mostly smugled from Portugal [Thank you Portugal! Luv ya!]), then you'll see I'm not the most favoured guy in terms of tools (from the knowledge, skill, time and tools you've mentioned) unlike others in other countries that have help for granted even to develop things that aren't that innovative like they wish to think. And the fact that I've reached so much and sometimes even better without help and with so many difficulties in the daily life, that makes me a lot of self satisfaction.

      But in the comment you are refering to, I admit that my comparison and self satisfaction could be easy confused with arrogance or snobbery, which was not the intention.

      Anyway if you're interested in this topic, I've made afterwards a clearer alternative to the original poster (which btw has an interesting product) describing the system I use which in my oppinion consider a more effective work system for mapping coverage using super cheap, available and simple but quality DIY hardware.
      I soon will post perhaps here on Diydrones a blog post with all my documentation and source code to make it all work, so that even any interest newbie in drone mapping can make it with confidence. If you're interested stay in touch.

      In return I'll just win is satisfaction for giving back to the comunity all that it gave me all these years, and thus for helping me into creating opportunities for myself to step out of an otherwise condemnation of eternal misery.
      Like I've said, I live in Angola, which is a world appart from you behond your imagination!

      Best regards, :)
      Roger Monongo

    • Roger, please provide it as soon as you can. We really need it. Thanks.

    • No worries, I'm organizing and revizing it and I'll post soon.

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