High Speed Camera Platform with Pan and Tilt
This weekend I happened to come into possession of a $170 store credit to one of the better hobby shops in the area. Not being into RC cars or planes I figured I’d just nose around and see if anything struck my fancy. Well, something did. A six channel futuba radio set that came with 4 servos. I didn’t know what I’d do with it but I had a pretty good thought it would be useful for robotics experimenting and stuff so I plunked down the store credit and another $30 and walked out wanting to play with my new toy.
After brainstorming a bit with my best friend B, we decided to create a remotely controlled pan and tilt base for my miniature wireless color camera. I pondered for a few minutes and decided to use 3M poster tabs for a secure but temporary way to adhere it all together and in all of 5 minutes had a working pan and tilt system feeding video wirelessly to my HMD. Pretty neat to be able to put it down somewhere and just look around like you were there.
Then came the inevitable escalation. “We need to make it move” was what B said. My problem then was simple. Not being into RC cars, I didn’t have one. He said lets use mine. Uh oh. I remember screwing around last summer with him and his car. That thing is fast. Scary fast. Running full bore with no limitations it can hit nearly 50 mph. At one tenth scale that means net effect would be like a full size car running 500mph. Sounded like fun. So it was off to pick his car up and head to the shop.
As soon as we got there he went and started charging his batteries, and setting the car up. I went and started fabricating a bracket to mount the two servos together securely. Then mounted the camera with nylon zip ties (didn’t want a permanent solution and these things are pretty strong). I tested the pan and tilt mechanism and everything went smoothly with no hang ups.
Next we mounted my new receiver into his car (he had been running a 3 channel radio since it’s a car. This needed at least 4 channels to run so we used mine.) and mounted the camera system on it. We used double sided tape to mount everything and I was really surprised at how strong the bond was. Once it was all assembled, it was time to play.
Whoa. As in a Keanu Reaves kinda whoa. That car is fast. It was really strange trying to get used to driving it. We had the throttle and steering set on one stick and the pan and tilt on the other. It was really neat to be running in a straight line and then be able to just look left or up. One wired aspect was the out of body experience of driving it around and seeing a person, looking closer at them and realizing it’s you. The camera didn’t have a huge field of vision, but it didn’t matter so much because you could turn the camera there and see where you were. Also it was neat looking down at the tires when you turned, the ground rushing by, the chair leg as you hit it.
And hit things we did. A lot. Even got stuck under a desk. And the tape held, the wire ties held. I have to say it was a great way to waste an afternoon. But I have to be honest, it seems like it would be better suited to tank treads. Video from a platform that fast can just be rough.
Here's the video... cheesy soundtrack and all ;)