Friday, April 26, 2013

Chase-Cams: Homemade, How-to, and Where-to-buy

The Original ChaseCam
The maiden flight (with build instructions) can be seen here:

The first ChaseCam can be credited to Doron Dekel, an engineer living in Toronto.  He introduced his MK4 edition in the video above, way back in August 2010, and has been tinkering with it ever since. 
I watched some of his very early experiments as he was originally testing the idea, including seeing at least one GoPro get destroyed in a prop strike. Maybe its because I saw this happen myself, that I can appreciate better than most people, the effort, and expense and personal risk that went into these early experiments.  No one thinks much of it today, but until Doron resolved all the issues, most people would have though the idea of tying something to a brake line, and dragging it behind a flying paraglider would be pretty nuts.

My first experiment with my own home-made ChaseCam, also helped me appreciate Doron's contribution to the sport.  As I went about sorting out the optimal length of the tow-line of my own ChaseCam concept, I recall feeling how strange the camera felt with the extra drag on my wing.  And I remember how weird it looked as it swung and oscillated behind me, like I was being chased by a particularly demented and very angry eagle, up very, very close.

Trust me.  If I hadn't known the concept had already been tested and proven by Doron and others, my first flight test would have been my last, and had it been up to me, the ChaseCam would never have been invented.

Doron also invented the “Wing Scruncher”, a method of reducing the area/size of trike wings smaller (after launching) to make them faster, and is currently experimenting with a device to wheel-assist the footlaunching and landing backpack paramotors.

Further detailed instructions on Doron’s homebuild can be found here:

Some ChaseCam how-to’s have no mention of a "breakaway link" at the trailing edge of the glider to ensure that the chase cam will fall away in the event of a tree snag.  Doron uses keychain rings at either end of the tether, which will open up at about 10 kg. (22 kg) I’ve experimented with a 4” (100mm) zip tie which has a breaking strength of about 7 kg (15lbs)  Much better to lose the camera then have a crash.

Coke Bottle ChaseCam
Coke Bottle ChaseCam
Coke Bottle ChaseCam


$199.00 AU Looks like a nice pro-build unit using expensive, but lightweight carbon fiber tubes.

GoPro FollowCam
$225.00 This is a version developed by and sold by Paratoys.

$69.95 This one is pretty new, and looks interesting, at the very low price.
I think it incorporates some out of the box thinking, including the idea of hanging the camera upside down, and shooting in inverted mode.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Case for a Fast Find 210 PLB

I've recently found the perfect case for my FastFind PLB, my review of the unit can be seen here:
FastFind VS. SPOT Personal Tracker

McMurdo sells a case which in my opinion seems better suited for storing the thing in a drawer, than on your person.  The case cover doesn't look very secure, and appears to be held closed with only a little Velcro, and held in place with a simple clip.  They want $20.00 for it.

The case I found is a Y2K era cell phone case, for a Motorolla V120C cell phone, and they can still be found online and eBay.  It fits the unit perfectly, and has both a very sturdy, MOLLE compatible belt clip, and a small D-ring for a lanyard.

The front is plastic, so the unit can be more readily identified as being a rescue device, in case someone other than yourself chooses to activate it.

The Mortorolla case closes with only a small Velcro tab, but the unit fits so snugly, it is unlikely to ever fall out on its own.  However, I added a snap enclosure to be on the safer side.

Then I pulled out the spring-steel belt clip.  It is a nice solid clip, but belt clips can get lost, so I riveted in a MOLLE compatible, Milspec, "Malice" clip made by military supplier "Tactical Tailor" for a more secure attachment point.   The Malice clip can slide onto, or be clipped over a belt, or MOLLE webbing if desired, but needs a tool, like a knife or a screwdriver to detach.

I picked up a few, new cases, and if anyone wants one made up for them, feel free to contact me via this list.   Twenty bucks should cover my time and shipping costs withing North America.