Camera Boat

This project involves creating an air-powered boat where a camera can be inserted (or FPV used) to watch underwater.

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I am surrounded by a lot of shallow rivers and I've always thought it would be cool to pilot a boat around and watch the bottom with the help of a videocamera or FPV. This could be useful in checking the health of the water by observing aquatic life (or lack of it) and buried objects. The boat is air-powered to hopefully minimize scaring fish away. The boat has a fishing line tether so it can be retrieved when battery dies.

The boat (12" wide) is constructed of 8 pieces of plexiglass to form the sides and bottom. The plexi is glued together with fast-setting acrylic glue and sealed with aquarium tank silicone. A few small pieces of plexi support the RC servos and motor mount (the latter two are attached to pieces of wood that are attached to the plexi with short pieces of zip ties). The propeller was made by hand by carving with knife and polishing with sander and attached to motor by zip-tying to a gear screwed on the motor (because I couldn't think of a way to attach to motor shaft for the moment). A vintage Futaba RC system for a car was used, with one servo controlling the forward/reverse motor speed and the other servo rotating the motor for directing. A stiff piece of foam plastic is under the motor mount to minimize vibration of boat and scaring the fishes.

  • 8 × plexiglass and wood (luaun plywood and pine) pieces for sides and bottom
  • 1 × RC system controller, 2 servos, receiver, motor speed controller, batteries for servos)
  • 1 × videocamera, cellphone, or FPV system
  • 1 × fishing line
  • 1 × plexiglass acrylic glue and aquarium sealant

  • Upgrades and 3rd run on 7/10/16

    ameyring07/11/2016 at 03:10 0 comments

    Since second run, purchased new battery with more capacity, improved turning radius of motor by changing position of servo rod pivot, improved propeller with further sanding to change blade pitch, and reinforced motor mount to make it more stable, Did the best run on afternoon of 7/10/16 in a small, but deep stream, and managed to catch some fish in action with a digital camera! The fish were only spooked briefly by the motor speeding up, but otherwise didn't mind the boat moving around. The run time was about 10 min, giving sufficient time to move around the stream. The boat did pretty well against the slight current and moved smoothly at full power. The current did make it a bit tricky to turn boat, but changing direction of the motor made turns easier. As long as there was sufficient slack, the fishing line didn't impede boat operation (but have to watch out for entanglement in seaweed and sunken wood).

  • Tether

    ameyring06/30/2016 at 02:18 0 comments

    6/29/16 Moved tether to stern. I'm not worried about it getting tangled in the propeller because it will have a lot of slack and be in the water until boat needs to be retrieved.

  • Second Test Run

    ameyring06/29/2016 at 03:27 0 comments

    The boat was launched for the 2nd time in deeper water (about 12") and the camera recorded an eerie underwater scene resembling a barren planet. Not sure if fish were scared by the boat or there weren't that many fish present to be caught on camera. The trip was still plaqued by low battery life and weak propeller, but success with capturing video made the trip worth it. There appears to be a minor water leak near the propeller mounting that will have to be corrected.

  • First Test Run

    ameyring06/29/2016 at 03:20 0 comments

    Boat had its first test run on June 19, 2016. Launching it was a little tricky because the bottom is a deep triangle that catches on rocks and mud in shallow water, but it passed without sinking and supported my cellphone camera (which unfortunately was not configured properly so no video was taken!). The propeller is weak in pushing the boat, especially against a mild river current. The tether should be attached to the stern because having the tether connected to the bow makes the boat do unwanted turns too easily. Battery life was very low - about 5 mins - not surprising due to my recycling a 30-y.o. RC system from another toy I had. Should work on improving the propeller and battery life.

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  • 1
    Step 1

    The final design of the boat may change. Use any RC system and ensure it can power a motor of several thousand RPM. The boat is 26" long and 12" wide. The depth of the top part (where the RC system and batteries are kept) is 5" and the depth of the lower part (where the camera goes) is 5" as well. The angles of the ends and bottom are 45 degrees. Cut all pieces at right angles and glue with acrylic cement followed by sealing with aquarium caulk (bathroom caulk is not designed to be continuously wet and therefore will lose its sealability).

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Austin Marandos wrote 08/16/2016 at 04:27 point

Nice project. How is the range on your radio system? I would recommend using 2.4Ghz radio systems to extend range significantly. 

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