Anyone who has used or worked with drones knows that they are interesting platforms on which to mount a camera. Some, from the a cheap Hubsan for around $30 on Amazon, to the much more capable DJI Inspire for around 60 times that price (Amazon), come with them already mounted on them. One thing most, or all as far as I know, don’t have is a spherical camera, allowing you to take “video” for use in virtual reality environments.
This type of recording, done from a drone or otherwise, allows playback to happen later as if you were an observer in a vehicle. You can look around, but can’t control where you are going. 360.place, a startup in the Ybor City district of Tampa, Florida, has been pioneering what can be done with this technology, concentrating on unique views of businesses. As their expertise focuses on software and video production, they asked me to help with the challenge of mounting a heavy (around 2 pounds) GoPro Omni VR rig to their DJI Inspire quadcopter.
Naturally, I was thrilled to take on this challenge, and after about a month of work designing, building, and testing my rig, I delivered a newly-augmented drone to 360.place that they could use to take their VR to the skies!
The obvious solution to taking this footage would be to run some sort of pipe from the center of gravity of the quadcopter a few feet down to the camera. This has been done before, but I didn’t see a good way to mount it in the middle without modification. Being a customer’s drone, I much preferred to do something that could easily be removed, and the linked design removed the built-in camera, which I wanted to avoid if possible.
After agonizing over what to do for a week or so and not really coming up with a good solution, the idea finally hit me