3D Robotics

Using GoPros for aerial surveys

3689562299?profile=originalFrom Agribotix:

In many ways the GoPro is an ideal camera for drones: small, light, rugged, decent resolution, and not too expensive.  The show stopper is the fisheye lens that makes image stitching impossible.  Now there could be a fix on the way.  Backbone, a Canadian company, is making an aftermarket hack to allow C-mount lenses to be used with the GoPro.  An as an extra bonus for those of us interested in NDVI, the IR filter is optionally removable.  Their product, called the Ribcage, will be a bit pricey at $200 (in addition to the cost of the GoPro) but it might turn out to be a comparable solution to something more expensive like the Sony NEX series cameras.  The Ribcage isn't available now, but it should ship soon.

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  • In my opinion, you don't need a lot of nex or SLR camera functionalities when flying. This mod for the GoPro gives most of what we would need to do with an airborne camera....with the much reduced AUW, I consider it as a great setup. The cost is quite high but this is not a setup for everyone, its a decent camera which is light, rugged small and can shoot at 4k resolution and a very decent 2.7k. What else can be mounted on a phantom for such video quality?

  • see my aerial 360 panoramas done with my quad with a Hero2 (not yet 3...).

    The existing fisheye lens is good (recommended) for 360 panoramas.

    Since Hero3+ back has 12 megapixels (comparing to 11 for Hero2), not yet sure how much Hero3+ will bring in addition, for aerial panoramas.

    pictures are done at 80m altitudes.

    Aerial panoramas from 80m with Hero2


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  • I would like to make a test ...  i dont have a gopro right now...is in the shoping list
    Anyone could share a set o pictures to test ?

  • I guess that the general conclussion here is that gopro is for daily life events, although there are some kits to make the gopro a camere for aerial surveys, but ultimately it just wont be your "weapon of choice" at the moment of making photogrammetry.

    However, i just saw a  add of pix4d, and they say that they can work with gopros. I guess that we just have to wait for the first post about a test using gopros and pix4d

  • We've tested and used various Olympus E-series, Sony Nex5-7, and Canon EOS-M cameras for serious photogrammetry, as well as a GoPro Hero 2 outfitted with a 3rd party "medium wide" and a Hero 3 with stock lens for fun.  We never gave any serious thought to using a GoPro for stills, until...

    A bit of background, first.  The Olympus, Sony, and Canon cameras all scored similarly on extensive resolution tests.  An Olympus E-PM2 with 20mm Panasonic lens just slightly outperformed the others in terms of resolution.  However, the Sony Nex7 would have been our clear choice because of its high resolution combined with its larger area coverage, if it weren't for the fact that it doesn't output analog video for the downlink.  We tried various HTML converters, but the increased weight, power consumption, and latency were deal breakers for us.

    ... we found ourselves photographing whales off the coast of New Zealand with a quad carrying a GoPro 3 (for fun) and a hexacopter carrying the Olympus.  As luck would have it, the hexacopter was down for a few days after getting soaked, so we decided to see what the quadrocopter and GoPro 3 would do for us while we repaired the hex.

    Much to our surprise, its stills were on par with the other cameras when we set it to medium FOV and used the center 50% of the image.  This leads us to believe we can get excellent results using the full image with a longer lens, such as the Sunex we have on our older GoPro.  We did that mod ourselves and, as I recall, it was only about $50.

    The drawback with the GoPro was that there was no manual control for shutter speed (we normally use shutter priority).  Still, on a bright day, the automatic shutter speeds were high enough to satisfy us.



  • Looks like  Pix4d has a release in Jan 2014 with a number of improvements for aerial mapping. The most exciting to me was support for GoPro3 lens distortion. 

  • I don't doubt that with a decent lens, GoPro's can produce decent images.  But still, they can't compare to images coming from a camera like a Nex.  Nor are they cost-competitive.

    $450 to install a lens on the Hero3, plus $300 for the camera, $750 total.  You can pretty much buy a Nex7 for that much!


  • By some of the responses here it just goes to show you can't please 'em all. I think this is a genius idea. You don't have to use a "huge" C Mount zoom like in the picture there - you can use a smaller M12 lens that doesn't have the size or weight profile - sort of like what Rage Cams is doing - It's actually tremendous to have a nicer multicoated lens, that doesn't have a Fisheye field of view when shooting aerials - and you can use a nice small quadcopter - a much smaller airframe - and thereby much smaller batteries, props, etc. than you would carrying a NEX and associated gimbal.

    here's Ragecams lens profiles for comparison - if you go with a nice Rectilinear prime lens you will have a tremendous experience with this thing:


  • more details below how to DIY this backbone


  • Basically there are a ton of GoPros out there and more every day.

    This gives you the opportunity to put on a whole variety of tiny M or larger CS or C mount lenses on your camera.

    In addition to making the infrared filter removable this allows you to adapt the camera to a lot wider variety of applications.

    Although $200.00 seems like a lot for a few aluminum and plastic parts, this is for a very limited market, so the total potential sales are small, justifying the comparatively higher cost.

    The GoPro is already widely used in professional and documentary filming as a fill-in and for hard to get action shots. For them this is a welcome godsend.

    But at this price it means we can use it too, certainly improves it's potential utility for photogrametric and IR uses.

    I always thought lack of lens interchangeability was one of the GoPros major failings and now you can put together a very capable camera with your choice of lens in a very small package.

    GoPro itself shows little sign of wanting to incorporate lens interchangeability so having this option available is really great and $200.00 is a "reasonable" price under the circumstances.

    The higher quality small lens's we are likely going to want to use will cost a lot more than that anyway.

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