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The SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman has become a useful tool in the recording of RC planes. It should get even better in the near future.
Click image to enlarge

SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman – Starting Over

We get a brand new outfit and give SoloShot a “Do Over”

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Flight video by SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman

Posted – 7-29-2015

UPDATE - 8-13-2015 - The SoloShot2 vertical tracking speed is currently maxed out by the speed of the tilt servo motors. They may go to faster tilt servo motors in future versions but nothing is set in stone at present.

If you have been following the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman review saga you know that we encountered difficulties applying this technology to RC airplanes. The SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman certainly seemed to work perfectly for many activities that more or less stayed on the ground or water. It was when we introduced the large vertical changes of RC flying that the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman faltered. Along the way SoloShot updated procedures and firmware but for RC flying, no joy.

Then SoloShot released a major update to the firmware that appeared to address the RC-related vertical issues. At about the same time I appeared to have an outright failure in the base or tag and my SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman did nothing but scan high and low and all over but never did lock onto the plane. To their credit the folks at SoloShot recognized that something was wrong and without the whole system on their workbench there was no way to be sure what part of the system had gone away. They opted to warranty the whole system and shipped me all new components. The original system is being returned to SoloShot.

After charging up the new base and tag I updated the firmware in the base, tag and camera control module to be sure they had the latest available. To adequately test the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman I needed to go to the flying field where we have the room to do the setup as prescribed by SoloShot. I have been getting requests to show more of the setup so this time I recorded the whole walk around and calibration and will include that in the accompanying video.

I also decided to use the Hangar 9 1/4-scale PA-18 Super Cub for the test, the same plane we had used in most of the earlier tests to maintain that part of the evaluation. I did not want to introduce higher speeds or performance initially. That will come once we see how the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman handles the Cub first. Sticking to the Hangar 9 1/4-scale PA-18 Super Cub was a problem because the only evening I had available for the video turned out to have high, gusty winds and a giant Cub is not a fan of big winds….

An important part of the setup is the walk-around (left) that I do a bit over 200 paces. The hardest thing on some planes is attaching the tag (right) that the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman actually tracks.
Click images to enlarge

At the Field

As soon as I took off for the first flight it was obvious that the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman was doing a better job of staying on the plane. The camera was going much higher than before and it appears that pure vertical capability is now fine for RC flying. If you do very high maneuvers close to the flight line the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman might lose the plane but all other reasonable altitudes are now within its capabilities.

Vertical tracking is also way better. A couple of times I continued to climb out on takeoff and as long as the vertical speed was not overly fast, like say a giant scale Cub, the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman locked on and stayed on target. When making a turn after takeoff the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman would almost let the plane get out of the frame to the side but is catching up better than before. We could use a bit more side-to-side panning speed if that is available. Sometimes when the plane changes direction it will come close to running out of the frame to one side or the other even though I have the base set on the largest frame size. Here again, if they can tighten that bit of tracking up and increase horizontal speed overall they will have this part of flying handled.

While overall vertical performance is much better, the speed at which the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman follows the plane vertically remains too slow and during even a moderate loop the plane will run out of the frame to the top and then the bottom. The SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman does appear to be tracking the plane all the way through the loop, the servo motors moving the camera just are not moving it fast enough.

This vertical speed issue is much better than it used to be and it seems like the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman has plenty of vertical capacity now. If the engineers at SoloShot can get some more tracking speed out of the base I think that they can greatly improve its performance for recording most types of RC airplanes.

Conclusions

Video Tour

As it is right now the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman is a handy tool for recording your RC airplane. It really does a good job with the singular exception of vertical tracking speed. However for many kinds of flying the bits of the flight lost to this problem will be minimal. For many 3D pilots your “window” in the sky where you work the plane is much more confined and the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman should stay with your plane just fine. In most cases the plane remains at or very near the center of the frame.

The other area in which the RC community can use some help from the folks at SoloShot is in developing ways to attach the tag to RC aircraft so that it stays put and is isolated from the vibrations. I am experimenting with various elastic and non-stretch hook and loop bands including the one shown in the accompanying video. I suspect that the SoloShot people and many of you will come up with viable mounting ideas along the way.

The SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman is a great idea that is probably far more complex than we realize internally. But the folks designing and tweaking its performance seem to have a good handle on it and I am confident they will improve its tracking abilities even more in the near future. To be totally honest I had gotten to the point that I was thinking about finding a soccer Mom who wanted to record her kids’ games and making her a sweet deal on my SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman outfit. With the latest improvements and the company replacing my defective unit I am happy with it and it will remain a frequently used tool at FlyingRC.net in the future for our Reviews and other content.

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