We live in a time period where people do things, record them, then post them for the entire worldwide online community to view. Do a quick search on YouTube and you see that people have already been attaching cameras to the outside of aircraft. Unfortunately they have been taking large risks with their lives, the lives of people on the ground, and violating numerous FARs in the process.
Part of what got us going on this project was to provide people with a safe, legal way to create high quality videos, where no one’s life is at risk, and no one has to worry about losing their right to fly. We want video to be as commonplace and useful as a GPS.
What are the potential risks?
1)Camera system could impact aerodynamics of the aircraft, potentially making it unstable
We all have a lot of faith in our aircraft: for many of us they have taken us through turbulence, ice and our own awkward maneuvers for years. We know them to be strong and stable, and what can the harm be to mounting a small thing out there where it will make a great picture? One thing I have learned from this project is that every inch of a certified aircraft has been thought over, examined, and refined, and making a change without formal studies raises your risk level sky high (pun intended). Don’t believe it? Try reading any of the write-ups of the NASA Stall/Spin tests conducted in the 70’s and 80’s on light general aviation aircraft: they found that very minor modifications could turn a docile aircraft into one prone to unrecoverable flat spins (check out “Stall/Spin Awareness” by Rich Stowell). A seemingly random disruption of airflow can have fatal consequences, and great jeopardy comes from disrupting the airflow over a control surface, or even worse, mounting a camera on a balanced control surface, either of which can invite flutter. Remember the A300 whose rudder came apart from flutter shortly in 2001? Do you want to risk that?
2)Camera system could depart aircraft and damage aircraft
What if you mount a camera using something like a suction cup, and it comes loose in flight and jams an elevator or rudder?
3)Camera system could fall off aircraft and hurt someone on the ground
What if you fly over a populated area with a tenuously mounted camera and it comes loose and hits someone? Small and light as they might be, at terminal velocity you are putting someone’s life in danger.
4)Violation of the FARs could result in enforcement actions
Is any of this worth losing your pilot’s certificate over? I didn’t want to lose mine, but I did want to shoot video, hence this project!
Think I am making any of this up? Do a web search, or look on YouTube. Here’s the kind of thing you will find, including people showing off their tail numbers while flying over metropolitan areas with cameras mounted outside on a suction cup, and one person taking off into 0/0 conditions with a camera mounted on a balanced rudder: if they got airborne and then encountered flutter, what would their options be?
Internet post on videographer’s site:
“…there are times and mounting conditions that require custom designed mounts or just plain ‘ol duct tape. A lot of the time I will carve a piece of foam to match the surface contour, notch out a spot for the camera, then tape the whole thing neatly. I have done this on the outside of jets and aerobatic planes hundreds of times.”
Quote from Amazon.com:
“I used this GoPro base to film and take pictures with my GoPro camera while flying my airplane, it is great, and the base attached very strong to the under wing of my aircraft. Great product!”
Suction cups used on YouTube.com: