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Cockpit video camera

Sometimes I wonder if such a thing might be handy e.g. to see where one screwed up

It would need something which is unattended and whenever it is powered up from an external power source (the aircraft bus) it just records, in HD, and retains the last 10 hours or so.

Obviously (due to the available video file formats) the recording will have to be made to distinct video files, say 1 hour each, with the oldest one getting deleted every hour.

The Go-Pro physical format is a little too big, but not impossible.

I have exactly such an app on my Nokia phone – SymDVR. According to the developer, it is used a lot in certain countries where people drive with it, in case somebody drives into them and drives off. But this is obviously not unattended.

It is slightly nontrivial because a video file (say mp4) cannot be just written and then suddenly cut off when the power goes. If you do that, the whole file is invalid because (from vague recollection of trying to recover such a truncated file once) there is a header written to the end of the file and without that header the file cannot be opened by any normal app. So such a camera would need a battery, so that the last file can be properly closed.

The slickest way to download the files would be if the camera presented a wifi access point, or appeared as a wifi network device. But that would mean wifi running all the time which I regard as unsafe because you never quite know if or when it is going to screw up the avionics and you don’t want to find out when flying an ILS in OVC002. So a USB interface would be good, and anyway it would very rarely get used.

Does such a product exist?

Last Edited by Peter at 01 Jun 14:37
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Perhaps you can’t call it a product, but nothing more is required than something that runs Linux, some kind of camera either built-in or per bluetooth or per usb, a little bit of software like the “cheese” package (if only for the name) and the simplest of cron jobs.
And surely it must be possible to concoct a similar thing under Win or MAC? Not rocket science on those platforms, either, I should reckon?

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

You can try to use a relatively cheap GoPro 3+ Silver Edition camera in a low-res mode which is 848×480, recorded as mp4. That will give you about 9.5 hours of recording time on a 64Gb card. Not exactly 10 and not exactly the loop device that you want but very close, wifi-enabled, and you can get it in more or less any electronics shop. The battery will be dead in a couple of hours so you would need an external power adapter.

Last Edited by kwispel at 01 Jun 15:02

…and, …err, Peter, I couldn’t help wondering: what do you wish to record when screwing up – the instruments, or the pilot’s face or the face(s) of other occupant(s), if any? In all three cases, adding sound either from the ambient or from the intercom aka audio panel, would be a worthwhile addition!

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

It would be 28V aircraft powered, and hidden inside the ceiling-mounted trim inside which there is a lot of space. Converting 28V to whatever the camera needs would be trivial.

It doesn’t need to be 10hrs – anything longer than the longest possible flight would be fine.

The battery life would need to be only long enough to correctly finalise the current mp4 file. One would assume that the recording would stop if the aircraft 28V goes. If one wanted to get around that, it gets complicated because – for an unattended device – you get 2 problems: (a) the battery will always go flat, which will create a trashed video file if the power is interrupted before the battery is recharged (the “DA42 double engine failure” scenario) and (b) it won’t work as a “CVR” because some or all of the recording will get overwritten by useless data collected after the aircraft is parked.

The problem with the Go-Pro is the large size of it. Something like a “bullet camera” would be cleaner to install, but the bullet cameras (which were all the rage a few years ago) are mostly of low quality. I played around with a number of them and frankly a 50 quid (top end) “HD” webcam was found to be better. The quality needs to be good enough to record instrument readings, GPS display detail, etc.

Jan – just the instrument panel and yes getting the intercom video would be great.

Last Edited by Peter at 01 Jun 15:20
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Russian drivers have their dashcam. These HD cameras save up to 5 hrs and they are cheap.

EGBE - Coventry, United Kingdom

The Sony HDR-AS100 has Wifi built in. You can download video files with NFC. There is even a wrist watch with live view that can be used to switch the camera on or off.

Techmoan Link is the site to go to for all sorts of excellent action camera reviews other than for GoPro’s. Look for Car DVR or Dashcams. These have auto on/off driven by remote power.


the battery will always go flat, which will create a trashed video file

Why would that be a problem? You’d loose the last few seconds, if the filesystem driver is worth anything…

LSZK, Switzerland

I think the problem is that he video file (this may be format specific e.g. .mp4 or .mov etc) has to have a special block written at the end of it to make the file valid. Obviously a specially written tool may be able to recover some or all of it but I have been around this one before and a number of people tried it and could not do anything with it.

The Mobius looks good – I will check more later.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Take a look at the VIO POV. which has some of the features you want, or similar. I seem to recall talking to your son about it once at Gloucester.

It has a “loop and forward” mode which means you can record a continuous loop, which only gets committed when you press record. It then starts to record from that point on. So effectively, when you press record, you start recording 5 minutes ago (or some configurable time). I use it on my motorbike to ensure I don’t miss any interesting action, without filling up the SD card. It comes with a remote controller to start/stop recording. Also, it’s a bullet cam so you might be able to leave the body under the seat to keep things tidy.

They also have a streaming camera, but I don’t have any experience of it. Apparently it has both wireless and USB connections.

Last Edited by Rich at 01 Jun 21:13
EGBJ / Gloucestershire
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