It is simple, really. If you want to take terrific, super-sharp video or stills from your aircraft it takes two things: a great, compact camera, and an FAA approved (STC'd, so it is legal and safe) way to attach it to the outside of a certified aircraft, so you don't have to shoot through a spinning prop or through cabin windows. It has to be easy to use, safe, strong, and affordable. Where on the outside? Well we fly over things, so the cameras need to look out and down: for them to have an unobstructed view, and not interfere with your aerodynamics, it has to be belly mounted.
OK, maybe it isn't all that simple.
The Camera part actually is straightforward. The GoPro Hero3,3+ and Hero4 cameras are small and rugged, and produce extremely sharp video images. And they are available for ~$499 for the Hero4 Black Edition, which is an amazing value for what they produce.
So how do you legally and safely attach a GoPro to your aircraft?
Which brings us to the enclosure: if you are going to the trouble to mount something on the outside of your plane to hold a camera, why not give it 4 bays so you can have up to 4 cameras in it, facing forward, backwards, left or right (and if you need it, even a 5th camera facing down)? If you have one camera, put it where you want, if you have more, cover more angles. The system has to be easy to use
, totally reliable, and have an FAA approved way to mount it to a wide variety of aircraft. It has to have a mounting plate attached (riveted) to the aircraft, and quick 1/4 turn connectors to make it easy and fast to attach and detach the pod section. Think of it like an antenna, where part is removeable.
Now we get to the FAA approved part: the design has to be flight tested at many airspeeds, angles of attack and altitudes, and have aerodynamic analysis done to determine what lift and drag forces it will exert on an airframe. Then the device has to be computer modeled using something called Finite Element Analysis, to determine where (much larger than normal) forces might concentrate: in the picture at left the Eagle360 is under 80 times more stress than the maximum predicted at sea level. Once the engineering analysis is done, the Supplemental Type Certificate process is started with the FAA. If your aircraft is covered under the STC
(check the AML
), it lets your local maintenance shop install the Eagle360 on your aircraft without extra paperwork and engineering (and without extra cost to you!).
Here is the Hero2 version of the Eagle360 (the Hero3/3+/4 version has a rectangular external lens), attached to a mounting plate on the belly of my Twin Commander 980 (prior to painting). The Eagle360 is STC
'd for a wide variety of aircraft ranging from a Cessna 150 to a CJ4 or Embraer Phenom 100, and we are adding more models as requests come in. Eagle360 is now certified for composite aircraft as well.
This photo shows two time World aerobatic champion Rob Holland in his MXS-RH pulling below my aircraft, showing the Eagle360, in the red circle, attached to the belly. Go here to see the "Air to Air" video from this flight!
Sometimes work can be fun!