Camera Setup for UAV

CAMERAS TESTED SO FAR:

  1. Canon SX260
  2. Canon S100
  3. Canon sx230
  4. Canon A490
  5. Canon A810
  6. Canon SD1200

PRIMARY MAPPING CAMERAS:

  1. Canon SX260 – just over 3cm (3.37) per pixel resolution at 100m AGL
  2. Canon S100 – just under 3cm (2.97) per pixel resolution at 100m AGL

FLIGHT RIOT SKYWALKER 2013 UAV (1900mm wings)

 

FLIGHT RIOT FINWING PENGUIN MAPPING UAV

 

FLIGHT RIOT SKYWALKER 2012 (1900 mm wings) – With FPV

This video covers how I set up my Skywalker FPV plane with a Canon Point and Shoot camera using CHDK scripts triggered by RC transmitter for aerial mapping.
Applications for this technology are vast as the enormous growth in GIS, remote sensing, and geostpatial technology over the past decade has proven.

Applications include but are by no means limited to environmental monitoring, conservation, natural resource management such as ecological and biological analysis, forestry, agriculture management, and even archaeological mapping.

All these activities are already happening all over the world on a regular frequency using full scale airplanes. The UAV option presents a much lower cost and smaller scale method of acquiring imagery that can be used in the production of spatial data.

I’ll follow up with a video on setting up a map mission in Mission Planner Ground Control Station.

31 Comments

  1. Rafael Tab

    Hello
    I have a question about de popular canon s100 and Sx260 that they only can take 200 or 230 pictures for his Battery Average Life.
    They are very usefully in fixed wind, that can fly over 40 min or more. They extend the battery life of the camera with the CHDK or how ?
    How I can extend the battery life of the camera for take advantage of all the flight time?

  2. bocorps

    Hi geo,
    what do you think of the canon ixus 240hs vs s120 or sx280hs ?
    i noticed that its sensor size is 1-2.3″ and 16MP. It also weighs only 150g vs 217g for s120

  3. bocorps

    Hi geo,
    what do you think of the canon ixus 240hs vs s120 or sx280hs ?
    i noticed that its sensor size is 1-2.3″ and 16MP. It also weighs only 150g vs 217g for s120.

  4. BOB

    Hi all and thanks for all information you want to share. I am a beginner in this field. I have been flying multicopters for years. I want to see if I can start to make Orthophoto grammetry. I am looking for a camera that I can use with a skywalker and what I can see and read it is important to have a GPS and 18 or more Mpixel to get good resolution. Not many options there but I found one that could be an option. Sony dsc hx50v,hx60v. Panasonic tz60. Any other thoughts?
    Thanks.

  5. jagaxiola

    Hello I am using the SX260, how can I Match the .log file to the .jpg, I try to use the Palentier but has to be GPX. Or how can I stitch the pictures using only the camera gps files?
    Thanks.
    Alberto

  6. Sacha.Selim

    Hey All,

    I’m a noob to UAV mapping, but have been in the GIS industry for 7 years now. I just placed an order for an IRIS+ from 3DR and was planning on using it for aerial mapping. However I noticed a lot of the members/posters on here are using fixed wings like the Skywalker. Is there a reason why fixed wings are more popular? Are they better suited for aerial mapping? Or is it that they are just cheaper?

    Thanks!

    Sacha

  7. hovershotspv

    Hi where can I find the FR scripts? I am building a rvjet and already built trigger thank you for that info. I plan on having a gopro 3black with modded lens 5.4mm in the nose the sx260 facing down for mapping and a ccd looking down at the LCD of the 260 so we can see what we are shooting And a ccd looking backwards for reference on turnarounds. I have installed a 3 camera switcher to go back and forth. I just bought Fixhawk for flight controller. Should be here next week. Hoping install will be easy. Question is how fast or slow are you flying when mapping

  8. Cona

    Hey Geobduffy, I just picked up a 2014 Skywalker 1900, I plan on using this for mapping, I have a 40″ wing and a bixler too, but figured the Skywalker for stable flights with a larger payload.. So weight not being an issue might just go with the sx260.. Part of me really wants a Nex though:) Thanks for the quick reply!

    • geobduffy

      Cona,
      I think you’ll be good to go with the SW 2014. It’s gentle, spacious and can fly very slowly if you need.
      If you can afford an NEX go for it! I’ll look forward to seeing some images from that camera.

  9. Cona

    Hey y’all, really excited to find this site! Been flying fpv for 3 years and now I’m gonna build my first mapping rig. Anyway thanks to Geobduffy and the community for all your hard work, hoping I’ll have something to contribute in the future! So I’m just trying to make my camera decision, any opinions on the Canon s110? or should I stick with the sx260? I hope to get an Nex-5n soon too, but was hoping to go simple point and shoot at first, then possibly NIR mod the cannon when I decide to pick up an Nex-5n… Thanks in advance

    • geobduffy

      Hello Cona and welcome to FR!
      I really like the S100 and the SX260. The S100 is a lighter weight and a little more compact so often times my decision is based on the platform I’m using. For example, on X5 builds I am using an SX260 because it fits well and places the CG perfectly. What platform are you planning to use?

    • jwahono

      I do not have this camera. However, based on its specs ( http://support.us.ricoh-imaging.com/node/1818 ), the possibility is depending on your flight plan. Ricoh WG-4 GPS shot interval mode is limited to 10 sec or more. If you plan your flight high enough (tipically more than 200 m agl) or slow enough (you should fly really slow) and forward overlaps 50% or less this camera will work for you.

      • geobduffy

        Good points on the built in time-based intervalometer limitations. The Ricoh WG-4 GPS also has IR receivers on front and back for remote shutter control, which I imagine would allow much faster intervals than 10 seconds. The key would be to find or build an RC IR shutter similar to one of these: http://www.fpvhobby.com/16-rc-shutter
        This would allow the use of CAM_TRIGG_DIST parameter to control triggering the camera at the correct spatial intervals instead of time-based intervals, which is the limiting factor in this case.
        Maybe fpvhobby would build one if there is interest? I would certainly love to try a 16MP camera that weighs 230g and looks pretty darn resilient as well.
        🙂

  10. Great Lakes

    March 20, 2014 at 10:23 PM (Edit)

    How are you all? New here and thank you for all the awesome information. Just got the SX260 to explore mapping and near inferred pics to use on the Farm here in MI. I have a fpv set up with vid switch would love to get vid out on the 260 working to see it wile it is up anyone doing this?

    Thank you for your help.

    • geobduffy

      I have not tried analog out on the sx260. Please let us know how it works.
      That works be great with a switch as you describe.

  11. jdlester73

    Thanks for the great information! I do have a quick comment/question regarding the SX260. I have read on here and other sites that it is a great, cheap, and easy to use camera. One of the key benefits seems to be that is has GPS to georeference the photos. Now here’s my question. I have done so much research and can’t remember if I had or where I may have read that it would be better to use the GPS on the UAV to match with the photos as it is a better receiver thus yielding more accurate positions. If that is the case, would you still recommend the SX260 over other cameras? I understand there is still image quality, price, triggering, as well as CHDK to consider. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    John

    • geobduffy

      Hi john,
      You can sync pictures from many cameras in Mission Planner using the built in tool. However, I find it easiest to use a camera with a GPS that syncs the pictures based on GPS clock. Check out th ePalentier link under the Software menu (top of page). You can also choose to just use the GPS data collected by the camera. It really depends on your needs.
      Geo

  12. ThunderstruK

    Hi all,

    Firstly I am amazed and very happy that I found this website! I have just purchased the finwing penguin and coming from a geological background I have been very interested in aerial photography after using a gopro on my bixler (just for videos). I was impressed by the landforms visible etc from the high quality video and that got me thinking about fitting a proper camera to my plane for aerial photography.

    I have been trying to work out how to trigger my camera to take pictures, but after seeing the video of how to make the custom trigger I am pleased that thee is a proper solution! (items just ordered :))After some searching around I found a link for your own intervalometer files (five I think). Am I right in thinking this is just for the simple trigger using a rc controller rather than the APM?

    Thanks for all the info!!

    • geobduffy

      Hi and thank you!
      You can indeed use the USB trigger method to allow the autopilot tO control the camera.
      It will be plugged into an output on your APM indtead of your Rx. Just use the no delay script. You can also run a servo cable from rx to apm and choose in MP to trigger by rx or auto pilot.
      In this case I suggest looking on the conservation drones website for the time based chdk script that also shuts the camera down prior to landing for extra protection.
      B

  13. kempo

    Hi, can you please share what setting do you use on the SX230 for photomapping? Thank you.

  14. ot visoko

    Hi guys! As a noob and beginner in this field I have to modify my current FPV wing. This includes buying a proper camera. I have the gopro hero 3 black, but I saw nowhere somebody using it for mapping. As I actually don’t have a lot of money, I prefer buying a proper camera from the same beginning, rather than trying a cheep one first and than buying a better one. So which model is better – the Canon SX260 or the Canon sx230. I know that the SX260 should be better, but I saw a review saying that the improvements are minimal and therefor the price should be lower. So is it worth it? And as the gopro can be set up making continuous pictures every 1/3/5 seconds can I use it somehow for testing or I HAVE to buy a Canon?
    Thank you in advance!

    • MegaFlare

      I have a go pro 3 and a canon sx260 (as does geobduffy). the go pro should really only be used for video as that’s what it was built for IMHO. I’ve use the gopro for taking pictures (not mapping) but was not impressed at all. It lacks the ability to adjust most of the basic features that you would need for good mapping pictures that even a basic point and shoot should offer. You may have to do a lot of post processing work if you choose to use the go pro for mapping purposes.

      The SX260, although a few years older, is still a great choice considering its lower price point over the more recent sx280. The addition of wifi on the sx280 is nice but the upgraded processor to digic 6 is probably the best new feature that may or may not be worth the extra money. Both have built in GPS which is probably the best argument for purchasing one. With the addition of CHDK it’s possible to enable features that would only be found on much more expensive cameras. The only down-side compared to the go pro is the weight, the sx260 is a bit hefty and the flash is improperly placed (although you’d never need it for mapping purposes anyway).

      You may have seen these sites during your own research.

      http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon-SX230-HS-vs-Canon-SX260
      http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon-PowerShot-SX280-HS-vs-Canon-SX260

      As you’ll see, the sx260 is preferred over both the sx230 and sx280.

      I found a display unit on Amazon.com for just over $200 and it came with everything in the box brand new. My suggestions, get the sx260 and follow all of the tutorials on this website as far as setting up CHDK, installing custom Flightriot intervalometer scripts, building a trigger cable, etc. and post back your progress and pictures for the community to see.

      • geobduffy

        Concur. The low resolution of the GoPro in addition to severe radial distortion due to the wide angle lens make it a bad choice for mapping. SX260, SX230, SX 280 is the way to go. I, like Mega, use the SX260 primarily. I’ve bought a few refirbs and used on amazon as well with no problems.

  15. irrops

    Lots of information to absorb and lots of work on your part. FWIW, I was involved in aerial mapping a long time ago as pilot, navigator, general manager and chief cook/bottle washer for an aerial survey company. We flew a Piper Aztec with the equivalent of a bomb sight mounted just forward and to the right of the pilot seat. In the back we had a Zeiss Jena maping camera and camera operator. Just getting to the flight line was a big production and the film was EXPENSIVE. Kodak did not issue credit to my employer. I am mentioning this as you brought up the overlap question. We typically aimed for either 60 or 80% longitudinal overlap for stereoscopic work. The lateral overlap was not as big of a deal but sometimes it was up to 50%. These were pretty standard figures for our customers who were either government or people wanting approval from government (in Canada). I happened upon your site with a posted video on DIY drones and am looking to do some aerial mapping of my property on Vancouver Island. Thanks for posting these helpful blog notes and videos.

    Cheers,

    PNG

    • geobduffy

      You have quite an amazing history!
      From my limited experience(in comparison) I’d say your overlap requirements are spot on for good 3D modeling results. Let me know if I an be of any help 🙂

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