Aerial Photography

Once I had learnt to fly the Twinstar II, A camera was added to try and take some aerial photographs.





Note : Many of the images on this page can be clicked to view larger images but file sizes are quite large (120 - 160Kb).


The camera was mounted in place of the original cabin section. It was screwed on to a plastic base, which clipped into the existing cabin clips. The back edge of the camera was velcro'd on to the fuselage for extra security.

The camera had to be tilted downwards slightly by adding packing at the back, to avoid too much of the starboard engine obscuring the photos. A cheap feather-weight servo was screwed to the top of the camera case, so the control arm could press the button.






The camera and servo assembly weighed 220g and so weight had to be added to the tail to keep the centre of gravity correct. 45g were added at the tail in combination with moving the battery as far back as possible, to get the plane balanced correctly.

Camera mount

Channel 5 (normally used for retractable undercarriage) was connected to the camera servo and the travel adjusted to just press the button without over straining the servo. The speed controller I had purchased recommended that only 4 servos were connected to avoid drawing too much current, and so the rudder servo was disconnected as this was not needed much during flight.


1st Photographic Flight

Here are a selection of photo's from the first reconnaissance flight. About 30 photos were taken and about 12 were good. Some photos had too much vibration, possibly taken when the plane was travelling downwind at a higher speed.

During the flight I first practised trying to photograph myself on the ground and then I tried to take some pictures of the surrounding skyline.


Initial climb after take off

Me from the air



Me from higher up

Nearby Road



View of the park

City Skyline



The plane was noticeably heavier and so most flying had to be done at full throttle to get enough lift. A long climb was needed into the breeze from the initial take-off, to get good altitude before starting to turn.

The landing speed was also much higher despite there being a generous head wind to land into. The plane landed OK but slid for a long time before stopping on the damp grass. The transmitter I was using had the ability to use the ailerons as flaps. This might help reduce landing speeds and would be worth investigating if more photographic flights were to have a slower approach speed.









The next photographic flight had the camera mounted differently to try and remove the engine from the photos and to try and reduce the ballast needed at the tail.

The new mounting was made from 'Plasti-card' and was positioned under the starboard wing. It had the camera tilted down slightly to avoid the wind tip getting in the photographs and to enable downward shots to be taken with level flight.

2ndCamera Mount


This new camera position was actually on the plane's centre of gravity so no ballast was required at the tail. However 15g was added to the opposite wing tip to help with balance about the plane's longitudinal axis. The mounting was simply taped to the side of the fuselage and could be mounted on the left or right side depending on requirements.









Here are a selection of photographs from more reconnaissance flights












 Parks and Recreational areas






















































































City Skylines










































































































































Rivers and Coasts























Some notes on aerial photography

The best images from the air were taken with the camera at an angle. Straight down shots were good for mapping areas or measuring altitudes etc... but for panoramic shots, the side mounted camera gave the most interesting photographs.

As with normal photography, photos taken into the sun were not good, they often had too much brightness and not enough contrast (see below).

Photos taken with the sun behind gave the best images and enabled the camera to use a higher shutter speed for a sharper shot.

In additional to the sun, the wind also affected the photos. When flying into the wind the plane's ground speed could be minimised to get a more stable shot, when flying down wind the plane would fly much faster and so shots could be less sharp especially if the airframe began to vibrate. Winds are normally calmer in the early morning and so it is common to have the sun low in the sky during photo flights. This can add to the problem of the sun mentioned previously.

So for the best shots the camera should be mounted on the plane such that as it flies into the wind the camera is pointing away from the sun. For this reason it is useful to be able to swap the side on which the camera is mounted.

The diagram below shows how the flight pattern can affect the subject you are photographing.

In this example the plane has the camera mounted on the left wing so that as the plane flies into the wind the camera is pointing away from the sun. This means the main photographs are taken from position 1 or as it flies over the pilot's head.

At the end of the photo flight path however, there is the choice of turning left or right. Turning left (or keeping the camera on the inside of the turn) will enable you to photograph yourself from position 2. In position 3 the camera is pointing into the sun but again in position 4 you can photograph yourself or the landing site etc...

By turning right instead of left, the camera is put on the outside of the turn. This enables you to take subjects beyond the airfield from position 5 and behind the airfield from position 7. Again position 6 is directly into the sun and probably won't yield many good shots.

This may all seem very obvious but it is worth doing both left and right turns to get more varied shots from a single flight.

Depending on the wind direction it is not always possible to mount the camera so that it is away from the sun when flying into the breeze, but it is worth bearing in mind to try and get the best photos.










RC Flying