All Things UAV & Drone Blog

This blog is dedicated to the review of various photographic products within the UAV market including on-board cameras with the various UAV products as well as third-party cameras that can be carried on any given UAV. In particular, with a glut of information out there on video-related reviews, I will be focusing on the still-photography related features 

Miniaturize It

Syma X8C with Mobius camera on board. Processed in ON 1 Photo 10.

Syma X8C with Mobius camera on board. Processed in ON 1 Photo 10.

Miniaturizing an aerial image can be an easy and powerful process. By reducing the depth of field, an image taken from an elevated view can be transformed. If you have Photoshop, it's pretty easy: 

   -Select the area that you want to remain in focus.
   -Feather the selection. The higher the resolution of your image, the more feathering required.
   -Inverse the selection.
   -Apply a blurring filter such as the Gaussian blur. Experiment with the amounts

There are other photo editing applications out there that offer "lens blurring" effects that make this an even easier task to accomplish. I typically use ON1 Photo10 or (if on my smart phone) Snapseed. 

Cold-Weather Flight

Syma X8C with a Mobius camera between Deaver and Powell, Wyoming on a sub-zero winter morning. Edited in On1 Photo 10 software.

Syma X8C with a Mobius camera between Deaver and Powell, Wyoming on a sub-zero winter morning. Edited in On1 Photo 10 software.

The first time it happened, I had a 42% battery charge on my Phantom 3. It was mid-autumn, but a cold morning coming from Ten Sleep up the Nowood Road. Earlier in the trip I had just passed over the frosty heights of the Big Horn Mountains. The Phantom (or at least its battery) was in the back of the truck instead of riding up front with me. I pulled over the side of the road and prepared to make a short flight over a colorful area of badlands. I checked the battery charge again to confirm I had enough juice for the brief flight. The aircraft was up and away quickly, and over a power line that paralleled the highway.

A little more than 100 yards out, I hear the robotic voice of the controller warning me that the battery is critically low. It immediately loses altitude not far beyond the power line and the craft becomes sluggish in responding to my commands. The terrain below the drone is rough, and if it forces a landing, I'll surely lose a prop or two. At about fifteen feet off the ground it seems to stabilize and slowly works its way back under my command. I make a catch landing and instantly begin thinking about what went wrong.

It doesn't take too long before I consider the coldness of the battery while it was riding in the back of the truck. Another lesson learned without serious consequences.

Today I took my Syma X8C out on a morning that was -12°F. Given these temperatures, the cab of my truck even has a hard time staying warm. Nevertheless, I kept too fully charged batteries in the breast pocket of my coat and close to my body. When I arrived at the flight area, I installed one of batteries into the quadcopter within the confines of my truck, and had it flying shortly after.

It was a great flight in terms of the aircraft's performance—it could have been any other day. But, after 8 minutes of standing in the sub-zero conditions, it was I who was suffering from the cold this time—not my battery. 

The RunCam 1


RunCam 1 Specs:
Physical size: 60x35x18 mm (L x W x H)
Weight: 41 g
Field of View: 120°
Advertised Photo Resolution: 3MP
Actual Photo Resolution: 2592 x 1944 pixels = 5.03 MP
Adjusted Photo Resolution: 2592 x 1473 = 3.81 MP
File Formats Supported: JPG
Image Flip: yes
Battery: Rechargeable LiPo 850 mah

"Born for RC Fanatics," RunCam is now celebrating their third year of offering photographic equipment for the RC market. The RunCam 1 is a great camera for still work Internet images and smaller format printing. However, it has one slight problem that can easily be corrected in any basic photo editor application.

Distorted out-of-camera file: 2592 x 1944 (5.03 MP)

Distorted out-of-camera file: 2592 x 1944 (5.03 MP)

With photo files taken directly from the RunCam 1, they first appear distorted—elongated on the y-axis. This 5-MP-file measures 2592 x 1944 pixels, but those 1944 pixels on the y-axis are too many which results in the elongated image. A simple fix for this is to edit the image size down to 1473 pixels on the y-axis and keep the x-axis at the same value (2592). 

Adjusted RunCam 1 file: 2592 x 1473 (3.81 MP)

Adjusted RunCam 1 file: 2592 x 1473 (3.81 MP)

Using a credit-card gimbal mount, I use my RunCam 1 on typical toy-grade UAVs like the MJX-X600 or the Syma X8C. It's an easy payload for the X8C, but can be a slight tax on the X600—likely requiring the higher power mode. Not long ago, one of the six motors burned out in mid-flight on the X600 while hauling the RunCam 1. Luckily it wasn't too hard to navigate the craft back under five motors even if it wasn't a graceful landing.

As of this writing, the RunCam 1 is now available for $49.99 (U.S.) directly from RunCam's web site. It's likely that better deals can be found from other on-line stores.