Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A GoPro on the Wingtip

Last fall, I bought a GoPro Hero 3 from a co-worker.  I didn't have the chance to make any use of it until this weekend, when I attached it to my glider's wingtip with the Go Pro suction cup attachment.

The suction cup is rated to 250 mph (much faster than my glider can fly).  I wasn't so concerned about the velocity as I was about the altitude.  On my flight, I got the glider up to 100 knots along the ridge tops of the Massanutten mountains, near Woodstock, VA.   I flew south of Route 211, and headed west toward New Market.  There, I connected with wave lift, and climbed above the clouds, topping out at 12,000 feet.

It was the high altitude I was more concerned about than the high speed -- suction cups lose their effectiveness when the ambient air pressure is significantly reduced.  How much effectiveness is the suction cup reduced? I don't know.  GoPro doesn't have any statistics on how well the suction cups work at high altitudes (or colder temperatures!).

All of the flying club members (the peanut gallery) kibitzed "You trust that suction cup? I'd tape the heck out of it, if it was mine."   "Don't you want to put some sort of lanyard on it?" 

I put two pieces of wing tape on the leading edge of the suction cup, but decided that a lanyard would be more risk than I could afford.  Losing a camera off the wingtip, having a random farmer below find an unexpected gift from above -- that doesn't seem so bad.  I think it would be far more favorable than having the GoPro flap around and banging on my wingtip, leaving very expensive dents in the fiberglass.

In any event, flying fast on the ridge would have made an excellent video. The GoPro would also have made excellent video while flying above the clouds in the smoothest air you could possibly imagine, while climbing at 700 feet per minute. (A smoother flight than if you were sitting in the cockpit while the glider is in the hangar).

All of that would have been nice to see from the Go Pro camera, but the battery on the camera gave out shortly after takeoff.   While setting up for the initial recording of video, my iPhone app showed a red bar for the GoPro's battery capacity.  I managed to only get 11 minutes of video.

The first 7 minutes of video and battery capacity were used up with pushing the glider out onto the runway, and hooking it up to the tow plane. I cut out all of that to give you this short video of a takeoff sequence and aerotow.  I hope you enjoy the video.  View full screen and high-def for the full effect. (Aerotow at Front Royal - YouTube)

Here's a link to the GPS recording and visualization of my flight: OLC Flight information - Piet Barber (US) - 05.04.2014

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