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New camera suspension system for airborne cameras helps to deliver pin-sharp videos

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Posted July 31, 2015

We live in an age of drones, both professionals and hobbyists use them to capture amazing videos. However, these videos highly depend on the drone itself and the weather – usually captured videos do not look very sharp as vibrations ruin the quality of the final picture. But now there is extremely effective way to resolve this – engineers from TU Wien and Dynamic Perspective developed an advanced camera suspension system, which promises a shake-free video.

New camera suspension system is light enough to be mounted on ultra-lightweight aircraft and drones, not just on usual equipment, such as helicopters, cranes, cars, and boats. Image credit: Dynamic Perspective

New camera suspension system is light enough to be mounted on ultra-lightweight aircraft and drones, not just on usual equipment, such as helicopters, cranes, cars, and boats. Image credit: Dynamic Perspective

In fact, technology is so promising that creators of the camera suspension system promise a smooth video even from a roller coaster – they say it is an easy job for this system, since it is created mainly for airborne TV-cameras. The camera suspension system is actively controlled. A camera gimbal features five rotational axes and high-performance control technology, which should deliver best pictures even from light-weight remote-controlled aircraft.

Alexander Schirrer, one of the creators of the camera suspension, noted that the easiest way to reduce shakiness in videos is to use a heavy camera system, as it reacts so slowly that vibrations cannot produce significant image distortion. However, as often is the case, the easiest solution is not the best one as camera mounting systems have to be rather light because they have to be mounted on lightweight aircraft.

This new gimbal system weighs about 20kg including camera payload, which, compared to usual weight of other products on the market that can weigh up to hundred kilograms, is a feasible load also for small aircraft. It could be achieved because this camera suspension system does not rely on weight for stability. It has an active stabilization system.

Researchers worked to develop a novel high-performance control system for active camera gimbal stabilization for two years. Although three rotational axes would suffice to arbitrarily rotate a camera in space, they added two more to improve precision and responsiveness of the system’s dynamics to boost the final pointing accuracy.

The system relies on an advanced active control system – sensors take thousands of measurements per second, regarding the camera’s position. These measurements are fed into a well-designed control algorithm, which computes optimal corrections to the camera’s motion and command the electro-mechanic actuators so that vibrations cannot blur the camera’s image. All of this electronic wizardry happens in a time-frame of some hundred microseconds.

This system is active, controlled by measurements of sensors and electro-mechanic actuators, which help to compensate for any kind of vibrations and deliver pin sharp video. Image credit: Dynamic Perspective

This system is active, controlled by measurements of sensors and electro-mechanic actuators, which help to compensate for any kind of vibrations and deliver pin sharp video. Image credit: Dynamic Perspective

Alexander Schirrer explained: “Extensive computer simulations were carried out, then we were ready to deploy and test the control system on a gyrocopter in practice”. But long and hard work was worth it – “Even in dynamic flights, at maximum zoom and full HD resolution we achieve pin sharp images. This quality has been inaccessible in this application segment – until now.” The system is light – up to 70% weight saved compared to existing systems, which means that TV operators can not only mount them on usual equipment, such as helicopters, cranes, cars, and boats, but also on ultra-lightweight aircraft and drones.

However, drone enthusiasts will have to wait till similar systems will be affordable for them, as this one is still rather costly and too heavy for most of hobbyist drones. We can easily imagine extreme scenes of action movies filmed with this camera suspension system, but it is mostly developed for TV / sports broadcasting. Movie companies do not necessarily need such system as they can edit the material endlessly until it matches what directors have imagined, while TV broadcasts more direct, raw footage. Scientists say that this camera suspension system is also applicable for precise scientific measurements, such as in the context of geographic information systems.

Source: tuwien.ac.at

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