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Getting Started With Brushless Gimbals

6 August 2013

I have been experimenting with brushless motor camera gimbals for the past few months. There have been some ups and downs getting this tech running on some of my copters. I have been trying out 3 different brushless gimbal control boards: Alexmos from Viacopter (2-axis), Martinez Open Source (2-axis) and most recently the EvvGC Open Source (3-axis).

The video above was created using a 2-axis gimbal called the InfintyM by HD Air Studio and the Alexmos controller from Viacopter. This is my latest video shot with this setup and it has been quite the long road to get to this point. However, I am VERY pleased with the results I am starting to get.

I purchased a Droidworx AD6 hexacopter frame a long time ago with the intent to create a copter capable of carrying an SLR-sized camera. However, it sat on the shelf while some key advancements happened in the multi-rotor universe. The 2 main ones being SimonK firmware for ESCs and now brushless gimbals & controllers.

My SLR Camera Brushless Gimbal Setup

Specs:


My GoPro Hero3 Brushless Gimbal Setup

This is my setup so far with a brushless gimbal for a GoPro camera. Unfortunately the cheap gimbal I got from GoodLuckBuy is quite flimsy and will flex in the wind or from vibration. There are now better gimbals for the same price. However, I have been designing my own 3-axis version and will repurpose the iPower motors it came with.


Specs:


My Advice on Brushless Gimbals

There are more and more gimbals coming to market every day. It is really hard to say which is good and which is not. The best way to know is to search for videos and posts on message boards to see what others are getting good results with. A few that I am more familiar with others using: Viacopter VectorDD, RCTimer Gimbals, QAV540G, and TBS Discovery Pro.

Key Things to Look For in A Gimbal

  • Motors: iPower (iFlight) was one of the first to start producing a full line of brushless gimbal motors. However, more companies like T-Motor are starting to develop lines of them as well. Many inexpensive gimbals come with unknown brand motors. I would be cautious here unless you have seen good reviews of them.
  • Ability to Balance: This is very key to getting the best results. The camera needs to be balanced on all axis, putting less load on your motors. I have seen many gimbals that don’t allow parts to be adjusted so that you can offset the balance.
  • Strong Materials: Be cautious of any that look like they are using thin carbon, fiberglass or aluminum sheets for any of the arms (the mistake I made).
  • Expandability: What if you decide to upgrade to a 3-axis setup, is this offered as an add-on or will you have to buy another gimbal? Is the gimbal designed for specific motors or can you easily swap them out?

Brushless Gimbal Controllers

I should note that setting up and tuning all of these can be a time consuming process. Something I am still trying to get better at.

  • Alexmos SBGC – This is the first controller I bought. The hardware and software is closed source and there are only a few shops selling the hardware. Although there has been some controversial hacking of the code to make it run on cheaper boards like the Martinez. Overall I recommend this board if you have the budget for it. The software and features are really great. 3rd-axis expansion boards are now starting to come to market as well.
  • Martinez Open Source – The hardware is available all over the web for $50 or less. The code keeps getting better all the time with frequent updates. As of this initial post, I am not aware of any 3rd-axis ability with this controller outside of using a 2nd controller.
  • EvvGC Open Source 3-Axis – This is the controller I have most recently purchased and am still tinkering with. The hardware is currently being improved by some members on RCG and the software is still in early stages. I will be experimenting with this on my 3-axis GoPro gimbal I am designing.
  • VR (VirtualRobotix) Gimbal 3-Axis – I do not have any experience with this hardware or software. It seems to be fairly new and I will be watching to see how it develops over time

Balancing Your Gimbal

Looking at the front of your camera, place the gimbal level on the roll axis. If the camera rolls to the left or right you need to slide the camera to one side or adjust where the roll arm attaches to the roll motor (if possible).

Gimbal Balance Roll

Looking at your camera from one side, place the camera vertical (lens facing forward). If the camera tilts forwards or back, you need to slide the camera towards the front or back of the camera tray to offset the weight.

Gimbal Balance Pitch

Looking at your camera from the side again, place the camera with the lens facing down. If the camera rolls forward or back you need to slide the camera tray up or down where it attaches to the pitch motor (if possible).

Gimbal Balance Pitch



  • Kolb

    Informative! Will use this as a reference – I have purchased the InfinityM gimbal with Alexmos. Hope to get close to similar results like you got.

  • Jason

    What brand is that carbon gopro that you have a pic of?

  • Jason

    Please email me as I have questions about your various gimbals.

  • FreeDezi

    I have just bought the Goodluckbuy gimbal and it works well. Im trying to work out how to set it so the camera points down on 45 degree angle instead of straight ahead. I tried messing with the pitch offset in the GUI but no matter what I do it won’t change. I prefer to use it on its own but can connect it to my Naza if I really have to. Does anyone know how to do this?

    • http://hovership.com Steve

      You will want to connect it to a switch channel on your radio

      • FreeDezi

        Thanks Steve, I will research that. Do you think I should connect it through my Naza or straight to the Rx?

        • FreeDezi

          Its now 5 months later and the stupid Badluckbuy gimbal has gone spastic. Ive spent 10 hours all day on it and on the internet trying to fix it but no hope. Am extremely frustrated and am ready to smash the crap out of it with an axe. Why does everything have to be so damn impossible?

  • Finn Krogvig

    I have just received a 3 axis gimbal with the evvgc controller (v 1.2) – what are your experience with it? – any good? I have little experience in updating firmware and the like. It seems a bit complicated. Should I go for the Alexmos instead -is it easier to get running?
    And thanks for a very nice site!

    • http://hovership.com Steve

      I have used it with mixed results. There is now a bootloader so you can update over the USB port. The main developer is releasing firmware updates every week and there is a lot of activity around it. If you need something with more features and to work right away, Alexmos could be better but will cost a lot of money.

      • Finn Krogvig

        Thanks for advise. Yes, I have now read and read and read the extremely long thread about the board og rcgroups. The case is that I got the board with a 3 axis gimbal for nex cameras. So I will give it a try when I get USB/serial interface ($3) – and see if I can get it to work without too much trouble. If not I will go the Alexmos way.

  • Fred L.

    Thank you for an excellent site. Are you able to give me
    some advice? I use my DJI Phantom to take aerial video’s using a small digital
    camera (Nikon L20). Your discussion on balancing a gimbal makes me wonder if you
    could recommend any 2-D gimbal(s) that could securely allow this camera to be mounted
    and then allow for it to be properly balanced. The camera’s dimensions are: 3.8 in. x 2.4 in. x 1.2 in. and it weighs 178 g with batteries. The camera’s 2 batteries (weighing 48 g) are loaded on one side of the camera and they would definitely shift the camera’s cg to that side. If necessary I can mount the camera upside down. Thank you for any gimbal recommendations and for any advice you can give me.

    • http://hovership.com Steve

      Sorry, only have experience with GoPro specific gimbals or bigger SLR gimbals. If you look on goodluckbuy.com there are now tons of different gimbals. However, it can be a gamble on how well any of them work.

  • Vlad

    Do you have the open pilot connected to the the martinez board? For manual control authority? For stabilization? Or both?

  • Dave

    I’m putting together a gimbal for a fixed wing aircraft that needs to be as compact as possible. I’m planning on using a 150 gram camera that’s a narrower than a GoPro so my system can be much smaller than those currently out there. My question is what brushless motor to use? Is there some guideline to what Kv the motor should have. How about how much torque is needed?
    Thanks

  • Dom

    Thanks for the advice, does you BL gimball allow pan / tilt input where it would hold that position?

    • http://hovership.com Steve

      Yes, most gimbal controllers allow for this.

Droidworx Hexacopter & InfinityM Gimbal
Droidworx Hexacopter & InfinityM Gimbal
Droidworx Hexacopter & InfinityM Gimbal
Droidworx Hexacopter & InfinityM Gimbal
Droidworx Hexacopter & InfinityM Gimbal
Droidworx Hexacopter & InfinityM Gimbal
Droidworx Hexacopter & InfinityM Gimbal
Droidworx Hexacopter & InfinityM Gimbal
GoPro Brushless Gimbal on a Carbon Quadcopter
GoPro Brushless Gimbal on a Carbon Quadcopter
GoPro Brushless Gimbal on a Carbon Quadcopter
GoPro Brushless Gimbal on a Carbon Quadcopter
GoPro Brushless Gimbal on a Carbon Quadcopter
GoPro Brushless Gimbal on a Carbon Quadcopter
GoPro Brushless Gimbal on a Carbon Quadcopter