What would you like to see in a thermal pan tilt platform to make it effective for UAV usage?


I am with a company called SPI Corp and we manufacture a low cost multi sensor pan tilt platform called the M1-D. The M1-D initially was developed for use on ground vehicles but due to its light weight, small size and low cost it has become very popular with folks in the aerial imaging world including both manned and unmanned craft. We are anxious to make this an even better product for UAV usage especially in the low cost market. We are reaching out to the UAV community for help in this endeavor (especially you guys at DIY Drones).  What we would like to know is what technical features would make our system even better for use in UAV's? If you could have anything you want in a low cost UAV Gimbal imaging system what would you ask for? What would be the bare minimum you would need to make the M1-D pan tilt thermal camera a workable UAV solution?  Current imaging systems are extremely expensive. It is our hope that by starting with our current low cost solution, and with a little help from the community, we can come up with a low cost UAV solution that will enable everyone to incorporate advanced imaging into their UAV project.

Our current system specs:

Fully enclosed pan tilt gimbal

Sensor Payload - Thermal Imaging, CCTV and Laser Pointer

Diameter of ball - 4.5"

Diameter of base - 5"

Height - 6.5"

Weight ~ 2lbs.

Pan - 360 degree continuous

Tilt - 90 degree

Pan Tilt Speed - Pan: 0.05~220°/sec; Tilt: 0.03~140°/sec

Video Output - Analog Composite single line NTSC or PAL

Communication Camera Control - RS/485 PELCO-D protocol

Inverted Mounting - Yes capable

Hardware specs such as size and weight are obviously difficult to change. What are the key features that you would need to integrate into your UAV project? Are there specific interfaces that are commonly used? Please post comments and let us know what you would like to see in the M1-D to make it even better for UAV imaging.

We look forward to your input.

Thank you

Randall Kolchins



E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • Mark

    Sorry it is a thing with my company. They want us to set all blogs and social media to approve comments before they are posted. Believe me its a pain for me to have to keep approving these posts. So no it is not just you. So the best thing for you guys seems to be just a module that mounts to existing camera rigs with a 1/4-20 base? What about the FOV issue?  There was a post looking for 90 degree FOV. This is really wide and with thermal I am not sure what you would be able to see on the ground from any distance. Thermal doesnt have the resolution of CCTV cameras.  For most of you, what are you really trying to see on the ground? People, cars, animals, terrain, etc? What altitude range are we generally talking about?

  • Why the heck does every comment I post need to be approved?  Is this true for everyone else?  this thread? or am I a 'special' case?  what is going on Carl?

  • Randall, I think your best approach is to package up your imaging core into a gimbal mountable package... than you don't have to worry about stepper motors, interfaces and such.. all of which adds weight to the payload where most people that have a UAV have a gimbal that will do a better job.  Camera should take a 5-25v input ( as those are the standard voltages onboard.. 5v = ubec voltage and 7.4 - 22 is the main pack voltage.  The output should just be a analog composite jack

  • There are a number of products that would allow an arduino to control a 4 wire stepper such as the EasyDriver https://www.sparkfun.com/products/10267

    Its based on the common A3967 IC 

  • Ikrase

      Looks like you are having a relevant discussion to what we were just discussing here in house. Our guys know almost nothing about RC gear.  Our motors are stepper motors with a 4 wire configuration operating on 4 volt (I am not the technical guy so pardon my simplicity). We have driver electronics on our boards to control these motors. From the RC gear they looked at it looks like servos are controlled by a three wire setup with the pulses that you are talking about. So many of you guys asked for a direct interface to the stepper motors. Do you have a plan on how you would control the stepper motors (which are not servos) from your RC gear?  Is there something in the Arduino module that is different from the standard gear?

    I am really pushing to come up with something for you guys that is low cost and effective. I havent been able to get my technical guys to look at this too deeply as they are tied up on other projects so I am hoping that I can get you guys to help with some of the technical issues. Im learning here myself so educate me so that I can sell it to my folks.

  • $3900 is well within my comfort zone.  I'll be watching with interest. 

  • Cool.... 

    Although I have to say I am a little suprised to see you here as I would have presumed this outside the price range. 

    The RC servos: The input is a stream of TTL pulses. The pulses have widths between 1 and 2 milliseconds which map proportionally to the motor or servo position. They are pulsed at a variable rate per second. 

  • Randall
    I'll probably get flamed for this but putting your development effort into integrating with typical DIY setups where the autopilot costs a couple of hundred dollars is probably not going to pay you back in sales.

    You have to bear in mind that most of the folk on here are just never going to put several $k of sensor on their UAVs when the whole aircraft typically costs less than $1k.

    It would probably be worth you talking to some of the higher end autopilot manufacturers.

    What is the angular resolution of the sensor in pan and tilt?

    The tilt slew speed may be a little low for UAV use.

    Is the syssem currently ITAR controlled or would it become so if intended specifically for UAV use? If not I'm interested!


  • The best FLIR core is not the Cork but the TAU 2 running a 7.5mm lens which offers a 90 FOV.  The cork is not very ideal at all for UAV.  If you could utilize this optical platform with some UAV specific integration elements that would be your most ideal.. especially if you make it so it can be mounted on a standard camera gimbal.

  • They need to get one made.  I will be awaitng to purchase

This reply was deleted.