For those that have seen my posts on Telemetry over 3G, you would know I am a fan of the Fatbox 3G router for Telemetry over cellular networks.
Its a small, compact device with two Ethernet ports which means I can easily add in Video over 3G later for a super long range UAS. For the same weight or less than a custom hack, I get a device capable of delivering two completely different tasks. Best of all, it works out of the box with no tinkering or software development required.
In the same regard, the problem of how to locate a lost model has been something I have long looked for a 'multi-tool' solution for. Especially if I'm looking at a really long range platform.
After looking at the options, I determined that a smartphone with a prepaid SIM actually makes a great 'lost model' location device. Simply activate the "Find my iPhone" mode and you can find it in no time.
As a byproduct, you are putting a fairly capable device in the air, so I set about looking at what else could be done with an iPhone on a UAS. Aside from the obvious task of taking video, it turns out that the iPhone geotags any photos it takes. You can then use the geotags to create 3D models.
They aren't the greatest quality or accuracy compared to doing it properly with expensive gear, but its a fun / cheap way of dipping your toes into 3D models without breaking the bank.
You will need to mount your iPhone on your aerial platform on a slight angle for the best results, then download one of the many cheap or free apps that allow you to take a snapshot every X seconds.
I used the free Hyper3d service to process my images, but there are quite a few options on that front now.
Obviously, an iPhone is an expensive bit of gear to have hurling around in a UAS and you wouldn't want it to get broken in a big crash. This is why I bought a 'pre-broken' iPhone off Ebay for $20.
The reality is that you are not going to be using this thing to make calls or surf the web, so the condition of the screen is almost irrelevant. iPhones work perfectly fine with a smashed screen and if you do have a big crash then there is nothing more to break on it. All you need to be able to do is turn it on and make it start taking photos.
Now, if I could only figure out how to use the iPhone to deliver 3G telemetry, then I could get rid of another device.