Public Lab Research note

Updated initial experience with Saturn V and SkyShield beta

by patcoyle | June 04, 2015 23:30 04 Jun 23:30 | #11952 | #11952

What I want to do

(Updated 6-5-15 and 6-7-15) Try the Chris Fastie and Don Blair Arduino controlled Saturn V and SkyShield beta with pan and tilt and CHDK for aerial panoramas. I've tried some of this myself with a different pan-only rig.

My attempt and results

(Updated 6-7-15)

Main image above is a Photoshop automated Photomerge of several images, with overexposure compensated (in part).

Earlier results follow.


I assembled and tried powering up without servos and Canon A495 camera connected. As indicated in this video, the mode selection using button wasn't working.

(Updated 6-5-15) After II emailed Chris and Don, Chris replied, pointing out the technique for mode selection requires prompt button press. With this tip ( also included in the guide at bottom of this page), worked fine as indicated in video below. It cycled through the modes, I could reset with the white button on the Nano, and then select desired mode, "2" as indicated by the green light.

Proceeded to connect servos and camera and powered up again. Action as indicated in video below.

I then turned on the camera and powered up again. CHDK triggering is working as well as can see in video below.

(Updated 6-5-15)

My initial flight attempt problems are mostly not related to the rig, but: Picavet lacings, moving parts, gears, ... what could go wrong? All kidding aside, having another person to help could have avoided these issues of getting Picavet lacings tangled in the rotating gears. I also had trouble with one of the kite line clips coming off. Since I usually use Brooks hangups, this could have just been an operator error. I had trouble with the camera cable coming loose, didn't capture any images on the initial flight. The shield pins for the camera connection are a bit vulnerable to bending, when working in the field.

Delta 9' Levitation ready for rig attachment.


Rig not ready for attachment after first try.


Launched with Picavet tangled, clipped on with one line clip, and other tucked away. On descent, further tangled in kite line. Will try again. As indicated, most of these problems have nothing to do with the rig.

(Updated 6-8-15) Successful flight, but poor exposure on images. Didn't set shutter speed. Also, haven't checked coverage through the sequence to be sure camera is saving and storing fast enough or if additional delays are needed in the sketch for the A495. Other observations: Used Brooks hangups, but should have had more separation between attachment points. Didn't attach the SkyShield on its own Velcro pad or use the small piece of Velcro on the servo support with the Velcro strap to keep the cable in place. Again, camera cable came lose from the shield pins in flight. Considering other ways to ways to make the connection more secure.


Having someone help during start up and launch was useful. Thanks to Kathy, shown flying in video below.

Questions and next steps

(Updated 6-5-15) Fly and continue to evaluate.

Why I'm interested

Integration of simple computing capability into our projects can provide flexibility and versatility and I'd like to learn more about using these small boards. People have expressed interest in making aerial panoramas. Chris and Don fielded this in a few weeks. Kudos to them!


Yikes. You never did like Picavets did you? I can see that the relationship is not moving in a positive direction. One of you two needs to start showing more respect for the other. After three years of practice with Picavets, last summer I had to cut the line off and re-lace it in the field on two separate occasions. It does not take much for a tangle to start.

Your observation is astute -- this rig has a lot of moving parts. Much preparation and planning is required to get everything working together. I will give an award to anyone who produces a half-spherical panorama on their first flight of a Saturn V Rig with SkyShield. For Pat, his second flight will count. I already failed on my first attempt.

Respect the Picavet, Chris

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Tangled lines can be frustrating. I think I'd recommend putting the two picavet attachments a bit further apart on the kite line (one arm span works for me), and maybe the whole array a bit further from the kite. The first gives more rotational stability. The second gets your kite into more stable air before attaching the camera and makes them a little less dynamically linked.

Somehow I eventually got better at avoiding the tangle, but I think it comes from getting burned and getting more careful. For me, it's a little easier with carabiners as attachments. I'll drape the lines over the back of my neck and attach the carabiners back to the camera cradle for transport. I do something similar over the headrest in my car. I'm not above using a bungee or a twist tie to help in the middle, but above all, always try to avoid slack ;)

Good look keeping everything connected. I think I'm struggling with an intermittent short on my current arduino auto-KAP rig :( Wish they were bullet proof.

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