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The SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman was frustrating at times but they have improved it to where you can make great videos of your planes, all by yourself!
Click image to enlarge

SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman Steps It Up

Plus handling the vibrations of a gasser

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Flight Video by SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman

Posted – 8-11-2015

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.


The most frequent request I have received since starting the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman series specifically asked to see it in action on typical aerobatic planes. My Aeroworks 50cc Edge 540 and RedwingRC 50cc YAK 55 certainly represent the style of plane so frequently flown by everyday RC’rs so I will strap the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman tag on each of them during one day at the field.

Vibrations Addressed

When I moved the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman tag from atop the wing of my Hangar 9 1/4-scale PA-18 Super Cub to the fuselage of my Aeroworks 50cc Edge 540 or RedwingRC 50cc YAK 55 I began getting hundreds of tiny videos rather than one per flight. It became obvious that the triple tap feature, meant for surfers and similar ground-based activities to put a highlight break in the video was being faked out by the vibrations of the gas engines. I tried various types of straps and thin to thick foam padding all with no success. The multitude of tiny videos persisted. My SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman was getting perilously close to being sacrificed in a bonfire. I was getting emails from others using the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman who were also encountering this issue along with several considering it for RC use so I postponed the bonfire and took the issue to SoloShot.

The tag for the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman (left) was cycling through the triple tap feature in response to the gas engine vibrations. SoloShot has a work around (right) - just insert a blank USB (2.0 only) thumb drive in the base before turning it on. As long as the thumb drive is in the bas the triple tap feature is disabled and you get a single video.
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The folks at SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman had a workaround. If you put a totally blank USB thumb drive (2.0 USB only, indicated by black plastic inside the plug on the thumb drive) in the base before pushing any buttons the triple tap feature should be disabled. Unfortunately while this frequently works, my SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman did not respond and the problem continued. To their credit the folks at SoloShot sent me a special version of the firmware for the base that disabled the triple tap capability internally and poof! – the problem appears to be gone. I should add that I used the same USB thumb drive to apply the firmware as was used formatted and blank in the attempt to disable the triple tap feature that way. If you try the USB fix and it fails try another USB thumb drive first and if that fails contact SoloShot support (Mikaila at mikaila.hernandez@soloshot.com) for a copy of the special firmware.

I had been able to reproduce the multiple tiny video problem at will in my yard just taxiing the fuselage around but now with the new firmware I get the single continuous video we are looking for. I was confident that the problem was fixed with this new firmware but I needed to put planes in the air to be certain and that is what happens next.

In the Air

At the field I set the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman up identically to how we had been doing it the last few weeks of testing. That includes a 200 step walkabout and calibration roughly 200 feet out in the expected flying zone. The base was set up with the LEDs, 1, 2 and three red, red and green respectively as recommended by SoloShot for recording RC flying. I also set the camera focus to manual, set at infinity as we have been doing for a long time even with hand-held cameras.

The first thing I discovered on flight day is that when exposed to the engine vibrations the tag still cycles through the LED combinations, however I would find out that the base was ignoring those triple tap commands. Because the tag LED’s still react to engine vibrations we have to take a slightly different approach in order to start/stop the recording reliably.

The “new” procedure is simple, start the recording (from the tag) BEFORE starting the engine and then stop the recording after shutting the engine off. In this sequence the LEDs on the tag act normally and you can see that you actually have started or stopped the recording.

Because the tag still responds to the vibrations we start recording before starting the engine and then stop recording after shutting the engine off.
Click image to enlarge

In the videos created with the workaround the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman shows that it can keep up with my Aeroworks 50cc Edge 540 and RedwingRC 50cc YAK 55 – most of the time. Once again we see that horizontal tracking is good, even with the faster planes. Zoom also seems to be on target most of the time.

The only problem continues to be the speed of vertical tracking. SoloShot increased vertical capacity in the last firmware update and that seems to have solved the pure vertical issue. The vertical tracking still falls behind even when I did wide loops at reduced power. In fact you can see in the video that the plane is going slow enough during the loop that it is becoming a little unstable. I tried doing loops that would favor the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman but it still loses the plane at the top and bottom of most loops.

Another vertical-related issue has been losing the plane on takeoff but while that still happens some, it is far better. The SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman was able to track several takeoffs with steep but relatively slow climb outs that reached far greater altitudes than it could follow before. I suspect that this problem will go away if they can increase vertical tracking speed overall.

Conclusions

Applying the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman to RC flying has at times been frustrating but the end result - where we are today – is that this is a handy tool for recording our flights. In the time I have been working with the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman they have made large strides in its improvement as it applies to RC flying. I am hopeful that the SoloShot engineers will be able to step up the vertical tracking issues and make this a truly great tool for the RC community.

Not long ago I thought that the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman was doomed to being relegated to my much feared banishment pile in the woods behind my house. Unlike those that made it out to that pile the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman now stays in my shop ready to document my ground to air recording needs. I suspect that many of you will add the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman to make your own videos of all the cool things you do with an airplane. Just remember though that the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman will dutifully follow your plane wherever it goes, even if that is a tree or the ground. Unfortunately the SoloShot2 Robotic Cameraman is totally honest unlike some RC’rs that “forget” that it may have been them that sent their plane to the great hangar in the sky.

Video Tour

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