Author Topic: Custom helmet camera.  (Read 407 times)

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Offline Nixie

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Custom helmet camera.
on: July 09, 2020, 01:49:58 PM
A few days after poking around with my F9 camera and finding out there are no new or old firmwares avaliable, nor adjustments for the camera (or anything, for that matter) I just decided to start again an old project of mine: Building a helmet cam from "scratch" (not from literal scratch, as drone cameras are so advanced that it's futile trying to develop the electronics too, there's plenty of options now (and they where when I first thought about this)).


You see, I'm a fashion victim, I admit it. Every time I see a GoPro in a helmet, I get sick.

When I see this:

I think of this:

I know, I know, It's not like there are lots of options out there. It's either GoPro or clone, F9 or the expensive Sena Tube, and not much else. (GoPro's Session, once you add the waterproof case, it's also bulky. And all the mounts are also large, not helping in any case.
And the thing is, our helmets are curved, but none of the avaliable cameras use that to it's advantage to make them more streamlined, and I'm thinking, why noone makes a wedge shaped camera so it has a lower profile?...
Well, if noone is going to manufacture that, f**k it, I'm gonna build it myself!

First I took out the camera module I had bought some time ago: a CADDX Turtle V2, real 1080p / 60fps (much better than the F9 camera) and just looked at it while thinking.
One of the main thoughts I had was:
"If I was ready to carry a powerbank and a cable for the F9 camera, why not remove the whole battery thing altogheter from the camera? (not totally true, but more on that later).
So, I got to work. First I made a simple suport to put all the parts near the helmet so I could visualize what I was dealing with. Be afraid NOT!(yet) this has nothing to do with how I wanted it to look.

With everything on sight, the first thing I understood is that I wanted the camera to be gimballed, so I could fine tune the angle it pointed out so even if the body was not perfectly aligned, the POV would be adjustable.

With that I started to see what kind of shape I wanted it to have. A limiting factor is the control board that measures 29x29mm (the camera body is 19x19mm) so the body itself MUST at least be a bit taller than 30mm. What I definitely didn't want was the GoPro attachment, so that's the first thing I removed:

In the helmet:

And against the F9:

Altough I had definitely gone overboard with the similification and volume reduction, and the pcb barely fit. After thinking about it, and some modifications later, I got this:

Much better. So, with that shape in mind, I started from scratch and built around the idea:

After refining some details:

And adding the micro-SD acces port:

That was looking great, altough the camera had started to get bulky at 37x37mm frontal size, and I got worried that the thing was NOT going to be an improvement, BUT I decided to print a body and front cover to test anyways.
When you see the first impression, is indeed a bit bulky, altought compared with the F9, it does poke less from the helmet side:

But ah!
When you see it from the side, everything changes! Now the F9 looks humongous against the Nixie-Cam ("official" name, XD):

And leaving it alone, also looks much better:

Once I had printed the gim-ball and tested it:

Gimbal working:

But, what about road exposure? No worries! The ball and lateral cover have o-rings, plus the silicone seal on the micro-SD card.

At the very least, the camera should be IP55 rated (dust and water splash resistance) but I bet it will be good up to IP68 (impervious to dust and very heavy rain, BUT NOT underwater-waterproof)

Meanwhile I make a few revisions of the camera, I'm yet undecided about taping the camera directly to the helmet, or making some kind of low profile attachment. I only have one helmet, so It's not like I'll need to change it to another one, but I might see the practicality of removing the camera later.

As for fabrication:

The body, front and camera ball will be 3D printed in SLA-resin, much more temperature resistant than filament (PLA/ABS) and inherently more resistant to UV radiation. I will have to find someone capable of printing that at a reasonable price, but not Shapeways, as they charge excesively for shipping to spain. The lateral panel will be machined in Aluminium, but I can do that at home no problem.

As for the internal (or not) battery I mentioned before. I can see the camera being more useful if it can record at least 1 minute after being disconnected from main power, so in case of crash, you can record what happened. I might try using a supercapacitor, so I don't have to deal with charging/protection circuitry for a li-po battery, but that can wait until I have finalised the mechanical design.

And that's all for now, see ya!

Offline Nixie

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Re: Custom helmet camera.
Reply #1 on: July 10, 2020, 07:40:30 AM
Well, yesterday while finding someone with a SLA printer, willing to do the pieces for me at a reasonable price (wich I found, btw) I printed the lateral cover, more for kicks than anything, and wow...

Sideplate closeup with it's miniature screws:

It also helped to confirm the contact and sizing of the heatsinking protrusion:

As for the battery/capacitor, after much deliberation, I decided to go LiPo (200/400mAh, good for about 5/10 minutes at least (maybe more but I prefer to remain conservative about estimations) and an external supply using a normal USB power bank. As a whole it will be less efficient (a few conversions of voltage around) BUT it is much more simplified, and it has less special gear to carry around than other options I was considering.