The Drift HD-170 POV camera as an on-board HD video camera?

As part of my plans to make a balloon-launched, return-to-launch UAV glider, I was looking out for a HD video camera that I could use in a typical fuselage installation.  I chose to invest my hard-earned into the Drift HD170 mostly because I figured the rotating lens meant that it was probably separate from the main processor board.  Only purchase and disassembly would find out...!


So, here's the full teardown and inspection of the device


The basic unit weighs 138g according the Drift, but stripped to this level it comes in at 58-60g, SD card included. The standard battery weighs 26g, but I intend to power the device from a central on-board battery pack, noise notwithstanding.


I plan on using the Skyfun as my airframe, so keeping the centre-of-gravity under control is my main priority.  This will be mounted in the nose of the airframe, so losing every possible gram is important to me, but damn that lens is still pretty weighty! (about 30g of the 58g total!)



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Comment by Doug Connell on March 12, 2011 at 5:34pm
I have been using the camera for almost a year and the quality is awesome. It will be fun to follow your progress, good luck.
Comment by Mike on March 12, 2011 at 6:11pm

Andrew, tell us more about your "plans to make a balloon-launched, return-to-launch UAV glider" - interested in the concept.

Comment by Hamish on March 12, 2011 at 7:10pm

Thats brilliant quality!


And Andrew, I'm hoping to do exactly what you are!  You should check out the community if you haven't already,  it's UK based but there was a canadian on the IRC who has already done this a few years ago.  He had a pretty simple autopilot and a 35mm camera on board! Old skool.  Looks like hes making a new one too.

Comment by Robert Beatty on March 12, 2011 at 9:06pm
I have an ImmersionRC video transmitter on-board my quadrotor that I had planned to hook up to the AV Out on a GO Pro HD in order to get POV, but now that I've seen what you've done with the Drift HD170 I'm interested in that approach because of its smaller/ligther form factor. But looking over the specs, I don't understand how you turned the Drift HD170 into a POV camera (while also recording HD to the on-board SD Card). Can you elaborate on how you do that with this camera? The GO Pro HD has a VGA video out, so I can plug that right into the ImmersionRC transmitter to get POV transmitted back to my video goggles. The Drift HD170 appears to only have an High-Definition Video out, which I assume can't be transmitted.
Comment by T.D. Gonzales on March 12, 2011 at 10:49pm
One idea for controlling the CG on the skyfun might be to cut the nose off to reduce the leverage that the front of the plane has. Although I'm not sure how it will fly after you do that. I was thinking about doing that to mine when I add a nose mounted cam.
Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on March 13, 2011 at 12:49am

Thanks for all the responses so far.  I hope you find the teardown useful for your projects.

@Mike, I'll have to do another blog post to describe what I want to do -  much theory and digital paper at the moment though, with baby steps.


@Hamish - thanks for the links!  I think I've visited them before in my web-trawl. Art Vanden Berg's work is as impressive as it is inspirational.  I'm slightly awed by the date that he did this - truly a pioneer!


@Robert Beatty - No, I haven't got it running as an FPV camera.  I probably caused confusion by describing it as a POV camera in this context, which is how the camera industry seem to label it.  I guess it must be possible to use it as a webcam-over-USB, but currently the firmware doesn't support it.  Perhaps we can suggest to Drift that it develop this as a future firmware update?  My plans don't include any FPV requirement though



Comment by Marco Glattfelder on March 13, 2011 at 2:55am

I'm really interested in the balloon RTL UAV too. I launched an HAB this january and I'm thinkink at a RTL system too because here in switzerland where there are not streets an buildings there are the alps. So the landing of a HAB it's a roulette.

Comment by Nicolas Ouedraogo on March 13, 2011 at 5:29am

@Mike, @Marco :

I've been working on a HAB-launched, RTL Skyfun since last august too (mostly inspired by HAB videos like yours Marco!)


The goal is to launch the balloon with a two-part payload:

- a "traditional" foam box, in the line of this one from Sparkfun

- an APM-equipped Skyfun attached to that box, programmed for RTL, with a release mechanism activated by the controller in the box (i.e when reaching a certain altitude, or when the balloon pops, ...)


Being new to RC and UAV, I'm taking a "baby-steps" approach to the project - basically I've spent a lot of time researching and learning from what others have done (this is my first post, I've been lurking here for 8 months). I've bought most of the parts I'll need already,  but there sure is a lot of work to be done before launch!


@Marco: where in Switzerland are you ? I'm in Geneva. It would be fun meeting sometime!

Comment by Matthew M on March 13, 2011 at 11:49am
Andrew you are so lucky not to be living in the United States, the regulations do not allow a guided return vehicle of any sort. A para-sail as an alternative but with out guidance it's no better than a parachute. I have had a similar project in mine using the guided glider to return a payload that would be to expensive to just launch on a balloon and hope for recovery. I'll be following your progress here with everyone else.
Comment by Marco Glattfelder on March 14, 2011 at 12:17am

Basically the flight out of sight is not allowed here in Switzerland too. But this is for traditional rc models. I asked our federal bureau of aviation what sense it makes to sue me if I try to land a HAB capsule in a safe area instead of let it land uncontrolled somewhere (highway, airport and so on). He wasn't able to tell me. As I studied law I know that for any law there is a subsuming of the original meaning an purpose of it. In this case to avoid accidents. No law - especially in the case law driven Anglo-Saxon system - can be interpreted literally in all cases. Even a bad lawyer can handle this in first instance.  Just call the system "collision avoidance" and not guided return and it will make a big difference. Trust me.


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