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Flying FPV at night.

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I've flew my heli FPV using moonlight as the only source of illumination! It was pretty tense to fly with so little light. But it was exciting to climb above tree level and see all the different lights :D.

Heli was flying under Carvec control most of the time, otherwise it whould be very difficult to keep attitude level and figuring out altitude with so little illumination. I've uploaded video on my website:


The camera is SONY exview chipset with F1.0 wide angle lens.

On the video you can also see MAHI glyphs - they are now wired to Carvec output and show horizon derived from inertial sensors.

Edited by cyber-flyer
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That is excellent! And it looks like you successfully tamed the MAHI horizon indicators too. All very cool.

The Carvec folks would probably get a kick out of seeing their inertial info used to generate fly-to markers. You should tune them in to your project. BTW, does the RS-232 based inertia data allow reasonable response times for you? I know it was a concern with your earlier IR version.

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there is another video in the same directory:


It's DIVx encoded, so you may be having trouble watching it. But if you can - it shows both MAHI and my own version of artificial horizon on the same screen. You can see that MAHI is noticably faster. There is a 0.1-0.2 second delay on my version due to AGWPE processing frames on my laptop and my software drawing it.

Carvec update rate is 60Hz and I don't notice delay between actual change in attitude and MAHI glyphs movements now. I haven't tried flying by looking only at the glyphs yet but I am going to. I actually starting to like glyph idea over military jet type AHI as I have drawn it, the latter makes the screen too crowded.

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So cool thumbsupsmileyanim.gif

I'm dreaming of doing this with a plane :wub:

(I've ordered 3 fluorescent tubes to equip an old plane for safety, hope it will be soon :) )

The best thing is that even with the moonlight we can see the heli's shadow :lol:

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Plane should be fun too. Putting some flares on the ground to illuminate runway will look very cool.

I am still debating if additional lightning helps with FPV flying. I am afraid strong spot light can and make it difficult to judge the altitude and attitude. During my Friday flight I had my car's headlights on in the beginning, thinking they will help me. But the headlights created a big bright spot in the picture and "flooded" the scene, so I had to switch them off to continue.

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Congrats on another great FPV flight! What type of camera do you have? I am using a KT&C KPC-S20BHEX which is supposedly .0003 lux @ f1.2 but came with an f2.0. It has a good sensitivity ccd chip, but the signal processing chip doesn't seem to increase the gain very much in real low light to near the dark noise level as some other cameras do, and without much success using the datasheets to mod the chips, I have tried adding an op-amp to boost the contrast. I have only driven with it on a model car as of yet, cause I am too afraid to fly at night without lights.

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Mike, thanks for the comments. It was very diffcult to fly under moon, much more diffcult than I expected. The moon looks pretty bright when you look at it, but I guess my reaction time and judgment of the situation was impared by the low light. I was as excited after I completed this flight as after 3000 ft flight or smoke stack flyby.

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  • 1 year later...

I'm gobsmacked :blink: You guys are unreal. Watched the video with amazement. The flight was very smooth, much cudos for a risky flight.

The camera was performing quite well for only moonlight.

If any of you are really serious about night flights? I have a link to some specialist Mil Grade low light camera's these go down to 0,00004 lux, rivaling gen 2 night-sights..

Ultra low-light Cam

If any of the more ambitious amongst you tried these cams, you would need the cam module only, as these come normally cased.

I would love to see a setup like this ;)


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Hi Stivie,

After I adjust for lens speed difference the VNC 702 camera (F= 0.8) looks better by about factor of 2 when compared to http://cu1.com/ktckpcs20bhe.html (F= 2.0). But I suspect it uses the same technology: Sony's Ex-View CCD. I am not sure where the better sensitivity is coming from. May be better A/D converters on board? And then there is the pesky price question.

I was considering continuing my night flights but I want to improve image sensitivity even more using light intensifiers that are used in night vision systems.

If anybody knows of a product that combines night vision with CCD in a small and inexpensive package - please let me know.

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  • 2 weeks later...
It look very good, do you have an idea of the price ?

Sorry for late reply... much work and travelling.

I can find out for you.. I know the 0.0015 lux version with no Case and outdoors weather housing and wall bracket is about £200. I use 2 of these here for security testing with my IR illumination design prototypes.

The 0.00004 version is obviously much dearer, theres an extra digital processing PCB behind the cam PCB.. I'll find out the price, without the case? Your Heli maybe big enough to take the whole camera?

I have played with this camera, with a 10 to 1 zoom F1 lens... it's a bit amazing, if theres one light anyware near, the image is very clear. These are used by Police etc. Should be good in moonlight. They are not messed up by 'smear' from moving headlights etc..

The onboard processing is a bit advanced and does some clever stuff ;-)

You can also use cheap IR Led markers on your landing zone, these would appear like flares to the camera ;-) Also you could use an IR spot on the Heli, using 810/880nm 5mm IR leds, these are not expensive. I use 2 strings of 6, off a variable regulator, 0 to 100mA per string from 12V, other combo's to suit your volts available power etc.

#Note: Forget the pinhole cams, these are useless at IR, you need the lensed versions, obviously these collect much more light.

hope this helps


Edited by Stevie
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