Interesting research from UCSD on using the innovative Sony QX100 for UAVs. 

The QX100 features a Wi-Fi interface for control via a smartphone, so we thought we’d slap it on the copter and see how far it could go.  Testing with a number of Android devices on hand, we quickly determined that that was not viable, with the liveview lagging and failing soon after the copter took off.  In an attempt to scrounge up more signal strength without adding weight to the copter, we decided to experiment with a USB Wi-Fi dongle and a directional antenna connected to a laptop.  To interface the camera to the laptop, we turned to Sony’s Remote Camera API, and wrote a python script that would allow us to command image captures, as well as display a liveview so we can frame our shots.  This was moderately successful, with some dropped frames but an otherwise stable link at 200ft, though it was not a very smooth experience.  Both the software and hardware setups have room for improvement, so this is an encouraging first result.

We are releasing the interfacing script open source so others can experiment with it, and possibly apply it to other interesting projects.  All of Sony’s Wi-Fi enabled cameras use the same interface, so the script should work on other cameras such as the NEX-5T as well, though it will likely need to be modified for the appropriate IP address, as we did not implement the device discovery.  Note that this is still under development, so it has issues and is not yet user friendly.

We had much more success with the second approach we tried, mechanically triggering the shutter button with a servo driven from the Ardupilot.  Using this method, we were able to quickly and reliably capture images, but without a liveview, framing the picture was difficult.  This is relevant for aerial photography, but not for survey missions where the camera should be triggered regularly.  Unfortunately, the QX100 has a habit of turning itself off when inactive, which seems to mean not being connected via Wi-Fi, so it cut out the last half of the attempted mapping mission.

The optimal approach we are now aiming for is to have a Wi-Fi liveview with a repeater on the copter to see what is going on while triggering captures with a servo to ensure consistent and reliable image capture.

In terms of achieved image quality, the QX100 is currently not well suited for aerial mapping missions.  Due to lack of a shutter priority mode, program auto often chooses slower shutter speeds, which causes significant motion blur from the moving copter.  The good news is that it works well while pointed forwards, as shown in the image gallery below.  Sony is releasing a new firmware update for the camera at the end of January 2014 that provides a shutter priority mode, so we will try again then.

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Comment by Phil Gordon on January 9, 2014 at 11:44pm

I`ll be interested how you go,I have looked at the QX100 and wondered how long it would be until someone had a crack at it.

Good luck.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on January 10, 2014 at 7:06am

Interesting work.  I posted a blog about these cameras a few months ago.  I think they show a lot of promise, but obviously are not quite the killer app just yet.  Hopefully within the next year somebody (Sony, or somebody else) can get these things working for us.

What a shame that in 2014, you have to drive the shutter with a servo ziptied to the camera. :(

Comment by Bill Isenberger on January 10, 2014 at 8:51am

Cool! like the direction this technology is heading.

Comment by Tommy Larsen on January 10, 2014 at 9:39am

I do the same thing with a Sony Nex-6. I use a Raspberry Pi onboard with a wifi usb adapter connecting to the camera. I have an ongoing build of a Windows application/.NET) on the GCS to communicate with the RPi via 3g or my long-distance wifi (Alfa 2000mw+IBCrazy antennas). This software (when finished) has live preview and takes photos in different ways remote :) Cool!!

Comment by John on January 10, 2014 at 10:03am
Does the wifi signal mess with the compass? When I used the wireless feature on my gopro the copter couldn't hold orientation. They were pretty well separated.

Comment by Roberto Navoni on January 10, 2014 at 10:27am

I bought one two month ago and yet interface it with VR Radio under development :)  It work very good the only limit is that preview is sent in mjpg format that's is not a great compression algorithm as .mp4 .

On SD card the video is great :) 

Comment by Tommy Larsen on January 10, 2014 at 4:14pm

No, John, i does not mess with the compass, but i havent installed things into the copter yet.

Comment by John Wells on January 10, 2014 at 9:52pm
Hi, new here.

I plan to use my qx100 with a raspberry pi as above, but was planning to tunnel the live view and trigger commands through a 3g mobile connection. With the shutter priority firmware update coming, this should be a great lightweight camera.

A small gimbal mount for this would be great... Should be fine to support it through its single tripod screw. Everything I can find is heavy overkill though.
Comment by Terry on April 24, 2014 at 8:50am

Draganflyer uses the qx100 on their uav. The gimbal and camera looks more aerodynamic than the gopro and the picture reportedly is much better.


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