At Makani we have long seen the value of well-documented tests and have been an interested consumer of the latest robust, small-camera technology for the past six years. When the first GoPro came out we were impressed with its size and resolution, and as they continue to release new, modular accessories and better cameras, our reliance on the equipment is growing.
Our Testing Director, Paula Echeverri says, “The great thing about gopros is that, since they have good resolution and a wide field of view, we can capture a large part of the wing in a single shot. Just one video can help us confirm good behavior of the structure, the aerodynamics and several different components (motors, tether, bridles and control surfaces). For example, we have seen the extent of fuselage twist through a crosswind loop, and the locus of attached flow as the air combs the tufts over the wing. And we still have enough room for gorgeous views of the sky and the land.”
The good: the resolution, detail and contrast of GoPros makes for stunning images. We have not tried the brand-new Hero3 yet (released last Thursday), but if the improved light sensitivity of the Hero2 is an indication—it is probably worth the price tag. GoPro’s modular gear allows one to clip into old gear (eco-friendly!) or buy a replacement for just one damaged part (e.g., we like their lens kit). Battery BacPacs give us longer recording time, which is great as we conduct longer test flights.
At present our only grievance is with the wireless remote, which has limited battery life, requiring us to keep it plugged in right up until we use it. The excellent footage from the groundside gimbal we got using this method was worth the workaround, and all in all GoPro has been a great addition to our camera gear. You will see their signature fisheye view in Makani videos and press coverage for the foreseeable future.
If you are already a fan of GoPro, you might like this recent profile of the company in Popular Mechanics.
Here is a recent photo taken from the wing as we conduct a test flight over Sherman Island.