Sunday, September 10, 2006

Weighing Video Cameras

I had wanted to use a Panasonic DVC30 camera onboard the helicopter. This camera is quite similar to the DVX100, a good camera that I use rather often. The DVC30 can shoot 30P (30 progressive frames per second), which is close enough to the 24P mode commonly used on the DVX100. The DVC30 has the advantage of weighing about half as much as the DVX100.

Unfortunately, in the context of this project, the DVC30 still weighs a lot: around 1100g with a battery and tape. In order to lift that much, along with motor batteries, servos, and structural components, my recent electrical designs have required four motors and weighed nearly 10 pounds. Keeping 10 pounds in the air for 10 minutes requires an unreasonable amount of battery power.

So, I decided to look for a lighter camera. One option is the Panasonic SDR-S100, which records to SD memory cards and has reasonably good image quality. (It has 3 CCDs and a Leica lens, like most good Panasonic models.) It weighs just 282g, including the memory card and battery.

After building a spreadsheet of the weights of all the Panasonic consumer 3 CCD cameras and reading a number of reviews, I'm going to aim for the GS300. It has better image quality than the S100 and costs half as much, but weighs twice as much: 550g. Running through the numbers, I think I may be able to fly a 550g camera using a minimalist 2 motor design.

Because of the trouble and expense of renting helium tanks, I'm designing the new version without balloons.


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