Control Systems

Camera control technologies range from Silly Putty to radio systems -- gather your notes on how to set up the cradle here

Laser-cut R/C rig for S100

edited March 8 in Control Systems

Up until now, I've been doing AutoKAP with a fixed rig and a CHDK-enabled camera. I point it in the direction I want to take a picture, start the intervalometer, and fly the kite. As many of you know, this procedure works quite well. I have a lot of radio-control gear laying around, though, since before KAP I was into R/C airplanes and helicopters (still am, actually, but not as much with all the new FAA regulations), so I figured why not give an R/C rig a try?

I also have experience with CAD, both from work and because I like to design and build my own R/C airplanes. I've been using FreeCAD, an open-source CAD program. Designing the rig didn't take long, and getting it laser cut from 3 mm liteply was only $17, including the material and shipping too, from Manzano Laser Works.

Building it was also simple. It didn't take long to glue the whole thing together, mostly with gorilla glue.

Here's a video overview of how it works. It has pan, tilt, and shutter control, plus a switch to turn the video downlink on and off from the ground to conserve the battery.

I got a chance to fly it over the weekend. It worked really well! Here is a video from the downlink. This is the kind of picture I see from the ground on my monitor.

Here are a few of the best pictures from the flight.

There's some more info on my blog, here and here. If anyone wants to build one, I can provide the DXF file for laser cutting.


  • Excellent work and great photos!
    A laser cutter is an excellent tool for making rigs - see my own 'benton-style' rig for my Canon EOS M here (wmf plans are available for download). Note that you can laser cut perspex (plexiglass or lucite) too - I cut the gears for my rig that way.

    Lately I've used a 3D printer to produce rigs - see here.

  • edited March 8

    Nice! One day I would like to try a 3D printer. I've heard we have some, as well as laser-cutters, in a lab at work that general employees can use, but I won't be exploring those options until the Covid situation has normalized.

    I used to have a Canon EOS M too, which I just recently upgraded to the M50 model. I love the image quality, but I'm not going to be lifting it with a kite any time soon. :smile: I have much respect for you and others who fly those cameras, though. I've been eyeing the Sony RX0 as an eventual upgrade to the S100. It is actually smaller and lighter and looks to have excellent image quality, indistinguishable from a larger mirrorless camera to my eye, at least for landscapes in good lighting.

  • Really nice construction. You are getting great results. Do you favor the plywood over metal to avoid potential interference with transmission?

  • edited March 9

    I didn't actually think about that. I used plywood with good results on my earlier fixed autokap rigs, so I decided to use the same thing for this one. It's also pretty light and easy to work with, and I've got a lot of experience with balsa and ply construction from designing and building R/C airplanes, so I stuck with what I'm familiar with. Is radio interference sometimes an issue with metal rigs?

    Another benefit is that on a hard landing or crash, the wood frame will break and hopefully absorb a lot of the energy from the impact rather than transferring it to the camera and other electronics.

    The stuff I ordered is "liteply," which is actually significantly lighter than the regular plywood that I used for my other rigs (which is birch, I guess?). It seems fine for a lightweight camera like the S100, but for anything heavier you'd probably want to use a stronger material.

  • The local secondary school where I got my ply laser-cut requires you to use 'laser-safe' ply - the glue that holds some ply sheets together can give off noxious fumes when lasered. The laser-safe 3mm ply I use is pretty cheap - 5 A4 (210x300mm) sheets cost £10 ($14).

Sign In or Register to comment.