Camera Tests-Update

I posted awhile back in response to questions I had received about how I safely capture video while flying. The FFA imposes on pilots a great deal of responsibility and ultimate authority; if things go wrong it’s probably the pilots fault, especially in single pilot cockpits. Safety is of highest priority and I take that responsibility seriously. All pilots are encouraged to set personal minimums that they write down and use as a checklist for safety purposes. One of my personal minimums is that I will not let taking video or pictures distract me from flying at this early stage. Therefore I needed to be able to set my cameras up prior to starting the aircraft engine and let them run without intervention until shutdown.

It is with that background that I searched for a setup that would allow me to capture reasonably good video that I could later edit in the event that I captured something worth sharing or to debrief the flight. I’m in rental aircraft so I need to be able to set it up and remove it with each flight without any permanent mounts other than the peel and stick type which the flight club has authorized.  Several problems I encountered are short battery life, camera shutdown due to overheating or writing issues; if the camera encounters an issue writing to the SD Card even for a millisecond it will shut down. These issues led to me often only capturing a portion of a flight and missing just the event that I was hoping to capture. It also required me to manipulate the cameras inflight, something I refused to do as a violation of my personal minimums.

After doing some research and testing I discovered others had some of the same issues, many had even given up. Then I studied up on different video resolutions, frame rates, fields of view settings and the affects of using external batteries and their affect on internal camera temperatures. I then ran my own tests with various video settings recording the results.


I came to the following conclusions:

  1. I don’t need the absolute highest quality video settings, just like choosing a plane, you should choose video settings based on your mission. I use my videos for this blog and for sharing via YouTube. I only need video that will render well to H264 MPEG and look good online.
  2. Unless I’m doing a lot of supper slow motion or zooming in on fine details I don’t need 60 or 120 frames per second; recording at these high frame rates results in significant internal camera temperatures and shutdown. Cinematic is 35 fps.
  3. Recording at 48 frames per second results in great video and so far has solved my issues with intermittent camera shutdown.
  4. External batteries just like charging your phone is an additional source of heat buildup and you will never get 6 hours out of a “6 Hour Battery”. You will get 60% at best.
  5. Always format the SD Cards with the camera via the menu system or through wifi connection and the phone App. This reduces issues with the camera shutting down due to writing problems.
  6. Air moving over the wing camera keeps it cool, using a skeleton case that I further opened up allowed additional cooling for the in-cockpit camera.
  7. Use of Wifi should be avoided as it significantly reduces battery life, produces heat, and is unreliable for starting the camera mounted under the wing. Use it only for connecting to the phone app to change camera settings and format the card then shut if off.
  8. Ultra wide FOV (Field of View) or fish-eye distorts depth and detracted from flying videos; its great for skateboard and skiing videos, not so much for flying videos.

After running my tests and adjusting video settings I have flown 5 multi-hour flights without any camera issues. I have been able to start the cameras prior to engine start, or prior to taxi for the cockpit camera, and record all the way through taxi and shutdown on the far end.

I changed my set-up using the newer Hero4 on the wing because it can accept a 128gb SD Card and I need longer recording time due to starting it prior to engine start. I use the Hero3 with a 64gb card in the cockpit. I have it set so that I can hit one button just prior to final taxi to takeoff. I have 3rd party after market 6 hour battery backpacks on both cameras.

My set-up: Pictures from prior post.

Wing: Hero4 w/128gb card, 6 hour external battery backpack, waterproof case, tie-down loop camera mount w/safety pin. Settings: 1080 at 48 fps/Wide FOV. Recording time: 5 hours 36 minutes resulting in shutdown due to dead battery with space left on SD Card.

Cockpit: Hero3 w/64gb card, skeleton case,  external battery backpack, and prop filter. Settings: 1080 at 48 fps/Medium FOV. Recording time: 4 hours 36 minutes resulting in shutdown due to SD Card being full.

Basically this set-up allows me to stay true to my personal minimums and capture video beyond the endurance of the aircraft or my endurance to fly and is high enough quality to make quality videos for online use. I enjoy making videos for my blog and my work with the Dog Rescue ABTCR. I also use the video as a learning tool to debrief my aviating, instrument approaches, and cockpit workflow. I often review the video and notice things I was completely unaware of during flight: areas where I can do better or areas that I did well due to learning from prior videos. I also use it to debrief in software.

I hope some find this informative and if you have any questions feel free to contact me.


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