Getting Started With Brushless Gimbals
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
- Droidworx AD6 Frame (discontinued, now VM series)
- Droidworx XM Extended Landing Gear & Quick Release Rails
- InfintyM Brushless Gimbal
- Cobra 2826-12 760kv Motors
- HobbyKing F-40A ESCs Reflashed with SimonK Firmware
- APC 13×6.5 E-Props
- OpenPilot CC3D Flight Controller
- Alexmos Gimbal Controller by Viacopter
- 2x 5000mAh 4S Hyperion Lipos
- Sony NEX-7 SLR Camera
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.
- Custom Carbon Frame Partially Designed by Me
- Carbon GoPro Brushless Gimbal
- Cobra 2814/20 850kV Motors
- HobbyKing F-30A ESCs Reflashed with SimonK Firmware
- T-Motor 12×4 Carbon Props
- OpenPilot CC3D Flight Controller
- Martinez Gimbal Controller
- 5000mAh 4S Nano-Tech Lipos
- GoPro Hero3 Black Edition
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).
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.
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).