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



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  • Sorry guys I am on a big presentation at the moment but I am still working the UAV project. I should have more info and time to get back into this around 3rd week in January. Keep the suggestions coming we are listening.

  • Any new progress Randall?

  • A bit more expensive but rolls in at ~400 grams with it's own batteries... I have looked through this imager at varying distances and can tell you the range and resolution is great for sUAV use under 5k ft AGL

  • The APM already has controls for the pan and tilt and will keep the camera level and trained on a target through the MP interface, so there is no need for an additional board.  If this unit would just accept PWM controls we would be good.

  • Do you have a rough price range of what just the imaging core would cost?   I was trying out my 6W IR bulbs last night and they do work well but not as well as a true thermal core would.. I really need to get my hands on a unit to test as I think you really would need both cameras.. one for the pilot and another for a spotter as the thermal probably wouldn't be good enough to fly with.

  • Just back in office today.  Keep the information coming we are looking at everyones suggestions and trying to move forward with some ideas.

  • Hi Randall

    on Thursday you said that you are wanting to explore the small UAV market. Apparently this market is on the eve of exploding, if only authorities allow it to.

    Therefore, I believe that the winner will be the one that is able to offer a small and light enough device that can be installed on a multicopter and/or a light wing sich as the swinglet or the cropcam just to name a few commercial ones.

    Actually the applications are driving the market. The need for fast processing and near range exploration is driving it. Check for reports on NIR realisations.....

    Now regarding pricing: one has 2 choices: - price it so low that everybody uses it

    - or price to a niche market and then only experts will be using it.

  • IMHO one very important point would be that you make sure that your system will be rated as "commercial" and not as military, because DoC export permits are complicated enough. ITAR paperwork is a pain in the butt and if your system would fall unter ITAR, it would be inaccessible, hence useless for a big part of this community.

  • Can you export these or are they on export control list?

  • Following this tread with great interest. I am looking for a thermal imaging core to mount on my multirotor platform.  I have pan/tilt, so i am also in to the solution with minimal weight and size. My main purpose would be for home insulation surveys.


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