Virtual Reality Remote Control Flying

This video sparked it off – a guy who’s mounted a camera onto an RC aircraft and fed the feed to a head mounted display (HMD). Now not much special in and of itself, I’ve seen that looong ago. But he’s also got a gyroscope attached to the HMD coupled to a motor on the camera allowing him to pan and tilt. The video is amazing!

The guy who made the video – VRFlyer – has a whole discussion about the technology here.

One of the aspects is the HMD to use. Things get difficult here. Basically it’s about the following things in the choice of HMD
1) Resolution (minimally 640×480 (ie. don’t get ripped off for 3240×240!), but preferably 800×600 [1.5 million pixels])
2) Whether the headset has a VGA connector as well as or instead of NTSC / PAL input
3) Whether the monitors in the HMD are independent of each other or not (most aren’t)
4) Virtual display size
5) Angle of view
6) Cost
7) Are the displays independent (stereo / 3D)?

If you’re only going to use the HMD for flying, VGA isn’t important, as the camera reciever is NTSC/PAL output anyway, but if you want to use it for other things (or view via a laptop) it becomes important.

Also, none of the HMDs is bright screen, so they’re pretty much useless in direct sunlight. Some kind of screen will have to be put on around them.
The maker of the system uses the Cyberman GVD510.
1) 640×480
2) no VGA
3) no
4) 40″, 2m away
5) 28 o
6) $499,-


[edit: 2007]
The Headplay unit offers 800×600, USB 2.0, VGA, NTSC, PAL inputs, optical settings adjustment for focus and inter-pupilar distances, 52″ diagonal (ie. 40″) at 6′ away and 360 colour fields/s. The goggles plug into a central unit which also has an output plug for a controller. It’s expected to retail at around $450,- or so.

Sony has a discontinued line of Glasstron HMDs which you might be able to pick up on ebay or something. The PLM A55 is sufficient, but really you want the 800×600 PLM S-700. No VGA input though.

The Cybermind Cy-visor dh-4400vp has similar specs as the PLM S-700. The Cybermindnl.com website has a whole load of different HMDs for sale. (NB the 900 series is 3D)

Tek Gear has a whole list of HMDs for sale as well.

Stereo3d.com has a huge list of HMDs in a comparison chart (unfortunately it’s static), so if you really like shopping around, this should help.

[edit: 16/7/7]
The Emagine Z800 3D Visor has a lot of good reviews and should be going for around $800,- to $900,- in the reviews. It’s 800×600 but on the official site it goes for a lot more.

They’re a lot cheaper on ebay, but a word of warning – the CrystalView HMDs come in 2 types, one of which is 1.5m pixels, in which case it’s a good deal, but the ‘poor’ model (don’t know how to tell which it is though) sucks so don’t get it!

Then we have the monacle systems which I really didn’t feel like getting into much. The Eyetop system was pointed out and looked quite nice, BUT QVGA (320×240) and no VGA in. It is, however a complete package for $425,-
This system is recommended for making aerial video’s but not for flying in first person view.

So, now we’ve got a HMD, we need a transmitter and a camera. You can get these at Blackwidowav.com.

Placing the transmitters is important and a question of trial and error. Stay away from metal as much as possible (so replace the landing struts, maybe) such as gates, fences, cars, etc.

The gyro is obtained from rc-tech.ch.

This are his mounting instructions, plus a how he recentres the view:

it’s plug in the trainer port, I modifie my tainer port to be able to get 9.6Vpower thrue the plug to power headset. But normally, you plug the gyro in High end radio like the Futaba 9C, it’s like givig partial control to the student. No gyro is available to be plug directly on pot. inside radio. I would have a model like this too, I will be able to use all my radio.
The momentary trainer switch on the radio have been replace
with standard switch. I toggle to student mode to activate the gyro, when I flip it back, the camera come to center fix. I can turn myself at that moments. When new orientation is acheive, I push a second switch mometarily to reset the gyro center, then I toggle the trainer switch to reactivate the gyro. I do that oftenly, when the planes is far, I prefer to look in the direction of the planes, if somethig wrong happens, I will save time. I got rarely problem, but I prefer be prepare if video fail.

Mounting the camera inside a canopy is not a good idea, because of the lack of clarity in plastic.

Now we need a digital recording device (PVR) to throw your flight movies onto. Again, look for a resolution of minimally 640×480, the quality loss going lower is amazing. That or use a laptop with a capture device.

There’s a discussion on PVRs here

If you go the MPVR, they’re reccomending the Aiptek MPVR 2K6, which is 640×480, is cheap and functions as a digital camera as well as being just an input machine.

So then what?
Uhm… yes… you need a plane, a RC controller and permission to fly RC planes (different per country). Good luck on that – that’s a whole new subject in and of itself!

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