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  • Stuart and Paul

Action cameras are better naked!

GoPro action cameras are great. We used them on our commercial aircraft back in the infancy of camera drone development on our Phantom and also larger self build aircraft. Back in the day (2014/2015), these cameras paired with a gimbal were a good solution for capturing high definition aerial images and video.

Drone technology moves on quickly and pretty soon consumer aircraft were featuring in-built cameras of the same if not better quality, rendering the gopro and gimbal set up redundant.

Action cameras remained a part of the FPV and hobby set ups and continue to do so today. A three inch FPV drone can comfortably carry a full GoPro, though if you wanted to go much smaller than that, you would have to sacrifice flight-time (or any flight at all...) as despite being small, they weigh around 120g.

To make action cameras a viable option for Micro and mini drone set-ups, you have to make them lighter and to do this, you have to take them apart. What first enlightened me to this technique was a video by Robert McIntosh called Muscle Up. This video was inspirational to me and it set me on my own FPV and cinewhoop path as it combined all of the elements I loved about drones - Taking a collection of parts, adapting them and creating something capable of making you say "how did he film that!"

Move forward to 2018/9 and the principles Robert used for his LA video began to be understood more and several small special interest groups focusing on de-casing action cameras formed. This community of modders and tinkerers was a great environment for developing the 'naked' principle further and today we have several companies that will supply short run productions of parts needed to properly deploy de-cased cameras as well as hundreds of 3D printing designs to make your own.

Following requests for internal drone flights in smaller and tighter spaces, we began researching a micro drone and naked gopro set up in late 2019. We're delighted with the result and providing conditions are right, we'll use this set up rather than larger aircraft as this little 166g drone is so much safer to operate around people and valuable targets.

Here's a video of the de-casing process we made using a Hero 6 Black edition.

Pushing equipment beyond what is was intended for comes with its pitfalls though as we found out around thirty flights into its use. The ribbon cable ports are very delicate and it doesn't take much to damage them. This is not the end of the camera though as there are other ways to power it thankfully.

Good luck with your own journey along the naked gopro route. It takes some research at the beginning to understand what needs doing, though the results are definitely worth it!

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