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External cameras - performance, mounting and legal issues

GoPro cameras are being used more and more these days, to capture the wonderful art of flying. But what are the implications?

In this I mean:
- Aircraft performance? (Does it have influence? Probably depending on where it is mounted/placed on the aircraft)
- Legal/illegal to attach (temporarily) a camera on the outside of the aircraft?
- Insurance issues? What in case of an accident and the insurer found out cameras where attached to the aircraft; could this be an issue?
- Distraction when controlling the cameras when one is flying?

Any thoughts or experience on this?

Edited; to get the list straight and make the text more readable.

EHLE (Lelystad - NL), Netherlands

Aircraft performance? (Does it have influence? Probably depending on where it is mounted/placed on the aircraft)

Nope. None whatsoever.

Legal/illegal to attach a camera on the outside of the aircraft?

The words 'can' and 'worms' come to mind....

Insurance issues? What in case of an accident and the insurer found out cameras where attached to the aircraft; could this be an issue?

No idea

Distraction when controlling the cameras when one is flying?

While the WiFi works very well, it also guzzles battery. So, in reality, if the camera is mounted outside you're better off starting it manually while still on the ground.

[quotes cleaned up - avoid loads of spaces at start of lines as these trigger the "code" option]

Insurance issues?

I think insurers must love these cameras; if I would be one of them I would give them to pilots for free. With a lifelong supply of spare batteries and storage cards. It must be like a dream: pilots not only producing bullet proof first hand evidence against themselves, but even showing it to the world via YouTube! "Look, I just crashed my aeroplane. And got everything on video. See for yorself!"

Legal/illegal to attach (temporarily) a camera on the outside of the aircraft?

Don't know about homebuilts and microlights, but any unapproved modification to a CofA aircraft in EASAland invalidates the CofA. Very simple. (In a former life I have done airwork with modified aircraft carrying externally mounted devices and was also involved in the certification and test flying. Lots of (paper)work involved). Better find a suitable spot inside your aeroplane. And attach the camera in an inflight-removable way, otherwise it becomes a permanent installation which again has to be certified. How great a risk you take of getting caught, I don't know. Probably as usual: If nothing happens, no one will ask questions...

EDDS - Stuttgart

And make sure it sticks. This summer a PA28 lost it's GoPro on take off in Friedrichshafen, it was fun to watch. The not so funny part is FOD for the next plane.

EGBE - Coventry, United Kingdom

And attach the camera in an inflight-removable way, otherwise it becomes a permanent installation which has to be certified.

For instance: if you use a suction cup (like the RAM mounts) outside on the airplane, it is not inflight-removable, but leaves no traces when detached (on the ground). Does it need to be certified too? Or not, because it is non permanent?

In other words: What are the (EASA) rules on attaching non-permanent objects on your airplane when they have zero influence on the aircraft performance and the test data (by RAM Mount) is well above the aircraft performance?

EHLE (Lelystad - NL), Netherlands

... it is not inflight-removable, but leaves no traces when detached (on the ground).

Not inflight-removable=permanent. Whether it can be detached on the ground without leaving traces or not does not make any difference. Our spraying devices were also ground detachable without leaving traces but still required a full certification program.

... when they have zero influence on the aircraft performance ...

How can you know without an analysis and test program?

... the test data (by RAM Mount) is well above the aircraft performance?

Whose test data? Obtained how?

Sorry, I cannot write anything different, because beside being a pilot I'm also an aerospace engineer...

EDDS - Stuttgart

Outside is a bad idea. Depending where it is mounted it can have a lot of influence on flight characteristics. I've seen it on top of the elevator surface of an old PA28, under the wing.. I would not do anything like that. Can you guarantee that stall characteristics are not affected? If yes you can show us your STC for the camera.

EGBE - Coventry, United Kingdom

Can you guarantee that stall characteristics are not affected?

Much more problematic is flutter, which can be provoked by almost anything. On YouTube there is a video of a Hawker 800 with an approved (!) installation of winglets that under certain conditions led to oscillations. The guys are lucky to be alive.



I've seen it on top of the elevator surface of an old PA28...

Incredible. Mounting anything on the all-flying elevator of the aeroplane comes very close to committing suicide.

EDDS - Stuttgart

I think outside is a bad idea, unless really well secured (which most aren't) though "everybody" is doing it.

If it comes off it could do a lot of damage - to your plane or the one behind. One decent dent in an elevator could be a four-figure repair.

My understanding is that getting it approved (for an ICAO CofA aircraft) is a long process so nobody bothers to do it legally. For a homebuilt, I don't know the rules. LAA in the UK?

I am not aware of an insurer not paying out but presumably those who crashed but survived (and they usually did have to survive for the footage to end up on Youtube) removed the camera before anybody turned up.

One can get decent results with a camera inside the cockpit, provided it is behind a clean scratch-free window, and it's much safer.

This proof of concept



(rather boring) was shot looking forward. The antivibration mount used is here.

I spent some time trying to find a way to mount a "bullet camera" (which is much more aerodynamic than the brick-like GoPro) outside the cockpit in the TB20. There is a safe way to do it, involving the huge suction cups on the inside of the door, and a ~1.6mm aluminium strip, about 100mm wide, going up and outside from them, through the rubber door seal, to a camera located immediately outside the top edge of the door. I gave up on this when a Sony "semi pro" camera I was going to buy (for about €800) turned out to have been discontinued.

As another opinion I think you can tell a movie made with a GoPro, in the same way that in the 1980s you could tell when somebody used Pagemaker to do a brochure for some product... The raw image quality is good but the image distortion gets very tedious after a short while. And prop effects are very hard to avoid. The same money spent on a camcorder will deliver a much better result, IMHO.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

in the same way that in the 1980s you could tell when somebody used Pagemaker to do a brochure for some product.

and Corel Draw in the 90s. lol

EGBE - Coventry, United Kingdom
87 Posts
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